I'm sure if we all look far enough back in our days at school, we can think of at least one teacher who really pushed us to think in ways no one else did. If we dug a little further, we might even go as far to say that they shaped us to become a better version of ourselves than we were before or even changed our lives
"Be the person you needed when you were younger"
For the students of Kent Middle School, I'm sure that one such teacher would undoubtedly be Melissa, or a.ka. 'Ms Stephens'. The all around fun, high energy, always smiling from ear-to-ear, beaming kindness 'Ms Stephens'.
Today I had the chance to ride along with fellow SS volunteer Miss Audrey Lin, to visit Kent Middle School, in Kentfield, CA where Melissa teaches. Melissa also has participated in Laddership circles
, writes and edits amazing stories
for Kindspring, sharing her experience in bringing the values of kindness and generosity to her classroom.
What brought us to visit Kent Middle School was a special invitation to attend the third and final assembly of the year, where students are honored and celebrated for their countless hours dedicated to selfless service beyond the classroom. It was exceedingly impressive to be present to such an assembly and how organized and well thought through it was. But let me digress a bit and share how such an event comes to fruition.
It takes a dedicated person, who wants to plant those kinds of seeds in the youth, and a teacher who is driven to want to give her students the opportunity to become the best human beings they can be.
Melissa is that teacher.
You can see Melissa LOVES what she does, and how much she works for her students. With giggle and beaming face, she in passing shares that she had only the evening before received the complete report of each student's community work and without skipping a beat, typed up a detailed script for each student's service achievements and handed it over to two of her ever ready eight grade 'announcers' to read. Melissa's "it's never a dull moment' expression was all smiles!
Moments before the Assembly, Audrey and I had a chance to visit Melissa's classroom. With the room decorated in pale blue, lavender and green, flowing curtains, inspirational quotes and a Gratitude Tree that is spilling all over the wall, it's not hard to imagine why the kids flock to her classroom, even during break time.
Like a mother goose is to her goslings, so is Melissa to her students. She commands the attention of her students with her charismatic presence and loving compassion It was sweet to witness the connection she shared with them. An eight grader came up to her and asked if she had another shirt she could wear, as the weather was reaching the high eighties and the student had mistakenly worn a long sleeve shirt that day. Melissa goes over to a closet filled with t-shirts and other garments. Not your typical stash of stuff in a class room setting I think to myself.
Noticing the puzzled look on Audrey's and my face Melissa explains. When student's do not abide by the school dress code, they are asked to wear the 'school shirt/pants' and that has a shaming effect on them, because it was then known to everyone else. This way, they get to change into something that doesn't have the same association. How thoughtful, I thought to myself. But of course Ms. Stephens
would think to do that for her students! ;)
Melissa gazed over to a quote above her desk with the words: "Be the person you needed when you were younger"
and shared: "You know, when I was asked what my teaching philosophy was, I didn't really know at first, but seeing that quote, it came to me. That's what it is!" We all smiled big.
What an Honor!
Roughly 500 plus students gathered in the large multipurpose room to take part in honoring the students who had completed their service projects.
The hall was filled with laughter and giggles but Melissa quickly grabbed the attention of the student's with the group "Falcon" cheer! Opening up with an inspirational video
, as Melissa often likes to share with her students,you soon noticed just how tuned in the students were. After the video Melissa shares that serving comes in many forms and that one shouldn't feel intimidated. "Even small acts are a great service she added. And you can do so right now by smiling at the person next to you" With each student turning to their fellow class mate, I noticed a young girl who was turning her hear side to side to see who she could reciprocate a smile with. Her expression seemed a bit disappointed until I locked eyes with her, flashed a smile, and instantly saw that frown turn upside down. Melissa was right! :)
With the now captive audience, it was time for the student's to receive their awards of recognition for their hours of service. One by one the students were called upon the stage for the countless projects they took part serving in. Many students worked closely the homeless, with patients in hospitals and acting as mentors. It was delightful to witness the smiles and celebrations for all the good deeds.
Toward the end the assembly, as part of the 'finale' raffle prize winners were announced from a raffle that was held in the weeks prior. All price gifts donated from the parents of the students. One such recipient was a man who works at the school, who never entered the raffle, but who's name was entered as a random act of kindness. Who knew how that ROAK would turn out!
Before the very final part of the gathering, our very own Miss Audrey Lin was asked to come up on stage as the Special Guest, to share what selfless service means to her. With her usual charismatic presence, Miss Audrey Lin stole the hearts of many students and teachers alike. On behalf of Melissa and the Kent Middle School, Miss Audrey Lin was chosen as their most recent Community Outreach member, recognized for being a shining light and an example selfless service, kindness and generosity. As A ROAK to Audrey, Melissa and friends conspired to put on a slide show of pictures of Audrey depicting her service journey!
It was GREAT to be in the presence of these two incredible women, both being amazing in their own unique ways, spreading love, kindness and smiles where ever they go. For teaching us over and over, how to be the change we wish to see in the world. And for always looking for opportunities to practice a bit of Random Acts of Kindness or RAOK.
(As evidenced by Miss Audrey Lin removing her earrings and handing them over to a student who had just complimented Audrey on them just moments after she exited the stage!, OH Audrey!)
Thank you Melissa and Audrey! We love and honor you BOTH.