Put a little poem in your speech…

My blog has suffered from the upswing in my daily grind. A few months ago, I was honored with the title of Teacher of the Year for my district. I was so nervous I thought my legs would give out from under me as I walked to the podium to deliver my speech. Thankfully they told me to write one ahead, just in case, because there’s no telling what kind of babble might have come from my lips had I not had something ready!

Many people have asked me to post my speech, so here it is. The written word cannot detect the shaking legs nor the racing heartbeat that I had as I read these words… but what an unspeakable joy to share my poem with a room filled with teachers and administrators from one hundred and forty three schools…

November 8, 2018

I am just blown away right now. Thank you for this amazing honor. Thanks again to my mentor leaders, fellow teachers, my Principal- Mr. Smith, and my family for all their support and inspiration.

When I think about what is the most important thing that we do as educators, I truly believe that it is MAKING CONNECTIONS WITH ALL KIDS. OPTIMAL Learning takes place if students feel a connection to their teachers.

I am a language Arts teacher, so it’s probably no surprise that  I wrote a little poem about what connecting with kids looks like in MY classroom… I titled it “Connecting With the World In My Classroom”... and thought, if I had the opportunity, I would read it! So, here goes…

I connect with the girl from Saudi Arabia who only makes it to class sporadically-
She’d rather care for her father, dying of pancreatic cancer,
on days when her mom can find work.
I tell her to read while he sleeps and we’ll talk.

I connect with the autistic boy from Israel who responds, “I don’t see what’s so good about it” when I say “good morning” to him each day.
He knows he makes me smile.

I connect with the Ethiopian girl who lost both of her parents when she was four,
lived in an orphanage until she was nine,
and found an adopted home with 10 other kids in America.
She teaches me about optimism and appreciation.

I connect with a girl who saw her family members brutally assaulted
in a home invasion in Somalia before immigrating to the United States.
I’m happy she’s here, and I tell her so.

I connect with an African American girl who works fifty hours a week at a Taco Bell
to support her drug-addicted mother,
and the baby of her brother, who is in prison.
I check on her every day, and never turn her down when she asks for a quarter or a granola bar.

I connect with the brilliant, gay, teenage boy who is trying to find himself.
I tell him to be proud.
I tell him to never be embarrassed by his intelligence and his heart.

I connect with the Jamaican girl who suffers from bipolar disorder and can’t maintain friendships.
I pair her with a shy girl from the Dominican Republic. I saw them laughing yesterday.

I connect with the girl from the United Arab Emirates, who wears her hijab daily.
Her eyes light up when I tell her that she looks pretty.

I connect with the athlete from Lilburn who lost his father, an Air Force officer,
When he was sixteen. I encourage him when he talks to me
About applying to the Academy.
I write a letter to my congressman on his behalf.

I connect with the Puerto Rican girl who has heinous grammar but great passion-
I tell her she’ll be a writer one day,
as I register her for my creative writing course.

I traverse the globe each day.
I learn of foreign lands, lands that I may never see.
I’m inspired by their stories, and they tell me eagerly.
I listen. I have nothing to offer them but an ear and a smile,
And my words.

I am a collector of stories, from people all over the world.
I’m lucky enough to do all this
In a day’s work.

Thank you so much for this absolutely incredible honor. I will do my very best to represent this county with all that I have to give!

-Heidi Campbell


2 thoughts on “Put a little poem in your speech…

  1. Your poem is fascinating! Teachers are my heroes and I thank God for special ed teachers who are able to connect with so many students with differing challenges at the same time, and able to advise and minister to these students on so many levels. I am reminded by this that indeed we are all challenged on some level regardless of age. In corresponding with death row inmates I find we often have more in common than we have differences. Like them, I too have fears and am under a sentence of death, and while I am appealing I have no idea of the date set for my death. And like your students, you too have challenges you must meet daily and no one can meet them for you. We must all live with our successes and failures and deal with them as only we can. May God bless and direct you in yours! Thank You for your Service!


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