2016 Blackboard Award Honoree: Adam Grant Kelley

Editor’s note: To read profiles of all 2016 Blackboard Awards honorees, click HERE!

Adam Grant Kelley accepts his Blackboard Award. Photo by Karen Haberberg Photography

Adam Grant Kelley
Grade 4
Battery Park City School—P.S. 276

Tell us about some of the special joys and challenges you’ve experienced as a teacher.

Coming to understand the children of mystery in my room is my greatest adventure. Each year, the individuals who fill my classroom with curiosity and dedication challenge me to be their greatest champion, understanding what they need to achieve their greatest level
of success. They develop such intensity and sophistication in their writing, developing a sense of critical awareness. Beyond academics, bearing witness to children as they develop a sense of agency and citizenship is especially humbling.

Please share a special project or achievement that you are particularly proud of from this year.

Adam Grant Kelley. Photo by Andrew Schwartz

This year, my classroom’s natural commitment to identity, diversity, and affirmation was a strong pillar of our learning community. My students engaged in careful discussion of civil rights from historical and modern contexts. As we read Sylvia and Aki together, children investigated segregation of the 1940s in studies of Japanese internment and school segregation, learning how the government and social reform movements corrected injustice. Their knowledge and interaction with historical civil rights movements continues to manifest itself in our discussions.

Over the course of your career, what do you consider your greatest accomplishments?

As a Peace Corps volunteer, I worked with rural Ugandan teachers to modify and translate a nationally prescribed curriculum, making it culturally and developmentally appropriate for local kids. A huge piece of our project involved exploring the authenticity of the local language—Ateso. We worked with community members to preserve the language (and, in turn, culture) that was largely diluted and replaced with English, Arabic, and Swahili. Knowing young children are actively empowering the preservation of their culture, while also developing academically, is thrilling.

What keeps you motivated and committed to being a dedicated and hard-working educator?

As someone who did not like school, my passion for education is one of advocacy. I believe each child deserves a champion who will push her beyond what she believes possible. Working to truly understand what motivates a child to excel and engage is a continuous effort… Seeing children achieve understanding and mastery of content and skill is my greatest motivation.