Each year, we highlight the work of outstanding charter school educators and celebrate the impact they have on their students via The Dewey Awards. Named after the teacher who inspired one of our founders, the awards are easily one of our favorite initiatives every year. While our selection panel is charged with picking three winners, all of the stories are inspiring and worthy of sharing.
Here’s a story sent to us by Madeline Reiff, a student at Options Charter Middle School, about Mrs. Kimberly Massaud.
I want to tell you a little bit about myself and why I think Kimberly Massaud should be recognized for this honor.
In the last week of 5th grade, there was a school shooting in my local district. I was so afraid that I didn’t ever want to go back to school. I had depression and post-traumatic stress and refused to go back to public school.
I started attending Options Charter Middle School in the second semester of sixth grade for an hour a day. It was hard to just be in a school but by the end of the semester, I was going every single day. Then in seventh grade, Kimberly became a teacher there!
When I first met her, I was very happy because she was very kind and happy to have a new student! She made me feel safe because when I am upset or another student is upset, we talk and tell her our problems. Then she helps us stop getting angry or sad with each other and we can go back to class.
Every time we have a fire or active shooter drill, Kimberly tells me right away before it starts because I still get shocked and frightened. This helps me because when the school shooting happened, alarms were going off and I felt helpless. Now Kimberly helps me get ready for the drills. School is feeling safer all the time.
The most important thing that Kimberly helped me find was my passion which is art, animation and how to create your own art style. I have dyslexia, so school is hard for me. But art and animation allow me to feel smart, confident, free and joyful. Kimberly is encouraging and fun. When Kimberly says, “drawing time” I feel excited because my brain can finally relax!
Kimberly says, “As long as it is “school appropriate” you can “art it”. Kimberly is a big fan of telling students that “your art skills should not affect your creativity”. No matter what you say about your art like, “It sucks”, Kimberly loves to say “even though you think your art is bad, you are still being creative in your own way!”
In art class, Kimberly plays calming music in the background. We can sometimes play our music (but only appropriately). It’s my favorite time of the whole day because it is peaceful. Kimberly also teaches history and English. She helped improve my reading because she read the books out loud. I was able to follow along and understand better. This made me feel more confident and that I am not dumb.
Kimberly is helping me realize that I am smart, but I just learn differently. So every day for a year and a half, I wake up happy knowing that i am smart and creative.
This past year, I wrote a book about George Floyd using art and animation because Kimberly helped me find my passion. His death was the most shocking and horrific thing I have ever seen and it happened on live TV on May 25, 2020.
I was heart-broken, very sad and a little bit terrified. I wanted to show my feelings and understand what happened and that his life mattered. I was trying to not get so overwhelmed and upset and crying. I couldn’t get the images out of my head. I started to imagine what I would have done if I had been there and could have saved his life. So, I put the book together from animation slides to show the world what it is like being black, brown and light brown.
I wanted George Floyd’s family to know that I was sorry for their loss and it should not have happened. It was important for me because as a beautiful brown girl, it is hard to make people understand that we are not bad people and we don’t deserve this hate. I want other young people to know that even though we have different colored skin, that we are people, too. We are not mean or harmful. We are kind, lovable, and even though we have different colors doesn’t mean we are different. We are just the same as you. I want people to treat each other with kindness, compassion and empathy.
Working on this book helped me to cope with my feelings of sadness and fear. When you see injustice in this world, pick one thing that you can change. Be brave and be strong and find a way to kind to one another. Here is a link to this project.
Kimberly has taught me to stand up, to use my voice and to speak up through art and animation and sometimes just my voice. This year I used my voice for George Floyd.Kimberly is so deserving of this incredible honor.
Thank you for the opportunity to share all of the good things about my wonderful teacher, Kimberly! She impacts the middle school students every single day by helping us find our way. She works really hard to make me and others feel safe. Art is my passion and Kimberly helped me discover it!