Want to know a strange secret? I imagine a world where we treat teachers with the same reverence we do musicians and actors. I also dream of a place where pop culture celebrates Nobel Peace Prize winners the same way they do Oscars winners. I know, silly right?
This summer, families cringe-smile with heightened anxiety and excitement as schedules loosen, and we transition into a different type of busy. As we approach sizzling temperatures and summer fun, it seems the perfect time to honor the invisible conspirators behind many children’s dreams and successes: Austin teachers.
One teacher in particular, Kimberly Collins, middle school teacher at Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders and 2019 AISD Middle School Teacher of the Year, deserves an extra gleam of spotlight. She’s a freaking rock star, y’all. She also teaches at a school so cool, I want its influence to melt further into Austin’s culture of education.
The Ann Richards Legacy
All great things come from an even better story. This one starts with a favorite, and a bit of a legend here in Austin.
With big dreams, a Texas-sized heart, and wit sharp enough to cut diamonds, 45th Governor of Texas Ann Willis Richards left more than political footprints behind when she passed in 2006. Her lifetime of public service found its way into the development of a unique Austin treasure—Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders.
Leadership Built on Courage and Compassion
As I delved into the depth of enrichment found at Ann Richards School, I found myself taken aback by the incredible values and life skills seething from the curriculum and culture. Ann Richard’s forward thinking is responsible for building tomorrow’s generation of female leaders.
Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders is a public, grades 6-12, all-girls school of choice, with a diverse 800-student body reflective of the city it represents. Founded on the importance of empowering girls to become curious, thoughtful leaders, Ann Richards School exemplifies the capacity for education to completely alter young minds.
At Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders, 100 percent of applicants are accepted to college. But the mission of the school goes decades beyond the classroom. The hope is these students not only attend college (if they choose to), but are equipped to succeed in college and beyond.
The Ann Richards curriculum of STEM-intensive tracks helps bridge the gap of females in science, technology, engineering, and math fields. These tracks of study provide gateways to career paths where women may be under-represented, including engineering, biomedical, and media technology.
It’s no surprise Ann Richards School is where this year’s recipient of AISD Middle School Teacher of the Year calls home.
Teacher of the Year: Kimberly Collins
Chatting with Collins, I quickly discovered the interview would be tricky. Teachers don’t talk about themselves often. However, once the conversation turned to her students, Collins glowed with pride.
A teacher since 2004, Collins is dedicated to guiding her students with innovative curriculum that instills problem-solving, resiliency, and confidence. The curriculum taught at Ann Richards School naturally cultivates a student’s curiosity and interest. Collins explained, “Watching that light go on as they figure out a problem is the most rewarding experience I get to witness everyday.”
The most valuable teaching moments, according to Collins, are founded in mentorship and community. When leadership and problem-solving are a catalyst for education, “students learn to persevere. That is the greatest lesson of life.”
Collins immerses herself in curriculum development opportunities. When she heard about a competition called Cities in Space a few years ago, she jumped on the opportunity to design a unit encouraging students to reach for the stars. Tasked with settling a sustainable colony of 1,000 people on the moon, Mars, or in free space, students learned to negotiate, collaborate, critically think, and problem solve.
The project expanded into a grade-level IDU as a catalyst for teaching an array of subjects. Afterwards, Collins took on a mentorship role with United Space School in Houston, where she collaborated with an interdisciplinary team of NASA scientists, engineers, and fellow mentors, as they guided 50 students from 25 different nations in their own mission to Mars. This leadership position provided Collins a plethora of tools to gift back to her students at Ann Richards School.
Teachers Are Really Ninjas
What you may not know about this particular teacher is she’s a ninja. I mean, most teachers must be. Their jobs blur every edge of their lives as they take on extracurricular activities and summer leadership opportunities. Teachers stay up until all hours of the night just to make sure they’re laying the best foundation for our next generation of leaders.
And it seems like many of us ordinary people forget to notice.
Teachers change lives for real. So let’s pay some attention! Please give a giant, virtual round of applause to this leading AISD teacher (who’s so humble that she credits her students for her strength)!
“We say that our girls will change the world. I believe they are already changing the world, one teacher at a time. I am lucky to teach these amazing young women and know that this honor is as much mine as theirs.”Kimberly Collins, AISD Middle School Teacher of the Year, 2019
For more information on this cool Austin school, you can check out Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders website.
@theAustinot wants to know:
Has an Austin teacher changed your life? If so, who was it?