When you first step foot onto the commons area of my school on these early mornings, you’ll see a large group of students—some half asleep, some energetically high-fiving each other and exchanging hellos. You’ll also find a group of about five or six kids surrounding Ms. Kristy Pierce, asking her for help with educational and personal issues.
The kids vary day-to-day, but what remains constant is Ms. Pierce and her attitude towards helping kids with their problems.
Luckily at my school, Ms. Pierce is not alone. Together, she and Mr. Donell Gibson, also known as Mr. D to students and staff, have provided a foundation for many students to achieve academic success and mental steadiness. This duo has done this by creating a space where students know we have educators we can trust to help us navigate problems. An important part of what makes these two individuals so successful at communicating with my age group is that they talk to us as young adults and not simply children. They both have a calm tone and get their points across without being offensive or impolite.
It’s obvious to me and my peers that Ms. Pierce and Mr. D have a passion for mentoring and guiding students to go far in life. They give 100 percent and maybe even more to help kids be successful. I see this on a daily basis. For example, they have started opening up the school on Saturdays and inviting students in for homework help along with basketball skill-development activities. They provide us with additional outlets to tap into our best selves.
While being positive, calm and supportive educators, they also hold high expectations for us and command respect. For example, Ms. Pierce was the academic advisor to the basketball team and it was no easy feat to have her in this role. She pushed us to our limits and out of our comfort zones, but she was always there to help us and guide us through each quarter.
Another time, Mr. D talked to me about how important it was for me to be an ambassador for our school when there were important visitors instead of joking around like I had been doing. He held me accountable, telling me it was critical for me and other students to speak up and say something when things weren’t right and to also lead by example.
In the moment, it can be frustrating to be held to such high standards, but when I step back and think about, it’s an honor to know these educators believe in me and my leadership ability.
Ultimately, the collective impact of Ms. Pierce and Mr. D has been widespread. Almost every time I walk past their office there is a student who is leaving happier and with more confidence, even if they are having a tough time. Their impact also goes beyond students. Their humor, calm positivity and rapport with students has been contagious among staff and has helped other educators try new approaches to building relationships with us.
For Teacher Appreciation Month, I want to shine a lot on the amazing work Ms. Pierce and Mr. D do each day to create safe spaces while at the same time, challenging me and my classmates to do our best. They aren’t the only staff that have a positive impact on the school, but they are a major factor in our overall school culture and pride at Como Park. They are simply THE BEST!