The teaching profession is rarely given the respect it deserves – in this country, at least. Perhaps because respect is so often conflated with earning power, there is a general assumption that K-12 education does not attract the best and the brightest. I’m fairly new to K-12 Teacher Education, but I have to say, this has not been my experience. In fact, selecting a recipient for this year’s Jeanne Foster Wardian Leadership in Education Awardswas no easy task, because as Taylor Mali reminds us in his comedic diatribe “What Teachers Make,” all teachers make a difference.
However, some of our best and brightest really do stand out, and Kailey Rice is one of those. She has constantly shown her commitment to the education and mentoring of our youth and in particular, to those who for reasons of language, culture, or socio-economic status, face overwhelming challenges. As an undergraduate she received the Service Learning Student of the Year Award and she has continued to embody the call of our mission to be men and women for others as a graduate student in the MIT program. She led the English Plus program at Shaw middle school last year, an after-school program to promote literacy for English Language Learners, and was heavily involved in the Shaw Boat Project last spring, collaborating with the Shaw community to build a traditional Marshallese sea canoe. Currently finishing up her student teaching at Rogers high school, she recently completed a research project to measure student perceptions of the nature and effectiveness of teacher support, as well as attitudes towards use of languages other than English in the learning environment. Over 300 students participated in the research, and the English Department at Rogers have commented that her findings are precisely the kind of data they need – but rarely have the chance to collect – in order to enhance their work.
For her embodiment of the mission, her mentorship, and her dedication to the profession of teaching, it gives me great pleasure to present this year’s Wardian Leadership in Education Awardto Kailey Rice.