Las Vegas, NV
I got to hang out with Robert Kelty, the 2008 Arizona Teacher of the Year this weekend in Flagstaff. My family was able to join me for a few days there also, since I had a bit of a break after a couple of events there, and Jen’s sister lives in Flag, too. It was the mini-spring break we didn’t get this year. ‘Twas nice.
Robert came to education via Teach for America on his way to med school to become a doctor. He taught for three years on the Navajo reservation where he connected strongly with his students and the community. On his last day of his third year, just before getting ready to head back to the university to study medicine, the community members presented him with a ceremonial blanket.
At that moment, Robert smiled and said to himself, “Well damn. Med school is out. Looks like now I’m in this for the long haul!”
Since then, he has continued to teach and to fight passionately for the rights of the underprivileged and oppressed, especially native peoples. He’s working on becoming a doctor now, but his doctorate will be in education. His goal is social justice through quality and culturally appropriate education, and he’s the kind of guy that is making it happen on a small scale in his classroom, and a large scale in his state. He’s an amazing fellow.
Although I personally never considered a high-paying job in medicine, I can’t say that I’ve always been committed to a 30-year career in teaching, either. But my “ceremonial blanket” was given to me nearly one year ago (unfortunately in the form of a crystal apple, which isn’t nearly as cool as a hand-woven, traditional, native, spiritual work of art.)
So I’m in it for the long haul now. I probably would have been, anyway, but there’s no backing out now. I’m a public voice for social justice through education. I’m a voice for civil rights. I’m a voice for children everywhere. It doesn’t really get much more important than that.
[Here's a short video of Robert explaining why he teaches. Powerful stuff.]