Meet Our Educator First Award Winner: Ketsia Hamilton
Meet Our Educator First Award Winner: Ketsia Hamilton
Over the last year at Edmentum, we’ve worked hard to live up to our dedication to being #EducatorFirst. We strive to live up to the promise that we’ve made to educators—to make their lives easier and to best equip them to support students each and every day. Our team does an incredible job at supporting educators in all that we do, and we wanted to create a way to recognize those who go above and beyond in their role.
What does Educator First mean?
“‘Educator first’ is somebody who has interest, drive, and passion to put themselves in the shoes of educators and students. It's actually feeling the pain of the person who is using any of our programs and being able to envision how a change or new development could impact that person’s life.” – Kristie Lindell, Director, Product Management
“It’s our expertise in curriculum development combined with educators’ expertise from the front line. It’s open, honest conversations and a willingness to evolve. It’s an essential partnership from which students are the ultimate benefactors.” – Melissa Crouch, Senior Director, Curriculum Development
What’s the Educator First Award?
The Educator First Award is an internal Edmentum award given out by our CEO, Jamie Candee, to the employee who most exemplifies our #EducatorFirst values. The winner gets a trophy and a travel voucher to any destination of his or her choice. This year, we had six finalists who are big champions of the #EducatorFirst movement we created at Edmentum, and it was a tough choice for Jamie to narrow down the winner. With the help of a panel, which included Kristie Lindell, director of program management, who’s featured in the video below, Jamie was able to narrow down a choice for the inaugural award.
Let’s meet our winner—drum roll, please—Ketsia Hamilton!
What do Ketsia’s fellow team members have to say about her?
What experience did you have prior to joining the Edmentum team?
Before coming to Edmentum, I was a high school teacher in Texas, and I worked in a public school district for approximately 10 years. For the first five years, I taught various social studies courses, and then transitioned to working with our districts’ online learning programs. My focus was building a credit recovery program at my campus and I implemented PLATO Learning [now Edmentum] products as our curriculum. It was an exciting time in the district as we explored new initiatives around online learning, and I worked closely with educators from other schools to expand the reach of digital learning.
What was your favorite part of being an educator in the classroom?
When a student, particularly in my credit recovery classes and working independently, had an “a-ha” moment and demonstrated mastery of a learning objective. It was exciting to witness how those small wins built confidence and served as motivation throughout their time with me. My students worked hard toward their goals and when I confirmed they’d earned back lost credits keeping them on track toward graduation, the look of pride and sense of accomplishment were very special to me. On those days, I knew I was doing the right thing, I was in the right line of work.
How did you engage with students and recognize their accomplishments?
My classroom was a computer lab, but I had some liberty to create an environment unlike other classrooms in my building. Physically, instead of fluorescent lights, several lamps were utilized to create a more easy-going mood; ‘weird’ music (mostly jazz or downtempo), as they called it, played throughout the day; and students organized their time based on individual goals. Small group instruction and peer tutoring were regular occurrences and student led conferences allowed them to own their success for each class. I created “star cards” where, once students earned credit, we would take their picture, put it on a little card along with the course and date of completion. The cards adorned all the walls in my room and were separated by subject; a student world geography could see all of the students who successfully earned credit in world geography. They couldn't wait until the end of the semester in order to take their picture for the ‘wall of fame’ and I enjoyed celebrating their success.
What’s your “why”?
A solid education is an equalizer; it opens opportunity. As a first generation American, we were taught from a very early age the way to succeed in life was to excel in school. Seems simple enough, but in my teaching experience, I learned that excellence does not come without a system of support to encourage, uplift and set expectations that make a difference in how a student progresses through compulsory education and beyond.
As an educator, I consider it my responsibility to continually push the value of having an education; helping students to uncover gifts and talents regardless of ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, ability and exposing them to new and innovative ways of learning that can serve as the catalyst to finding and developing their passions.
I saw my students succeed as independent learners when they had the chance to demonstrate their strengths in a non-traditional way, and this continues to fuel my passion of working with online programs designed to tailor learning to meet individual needs.
Were there any educators you had growing up who inspired you to pursue teaching?
My mother was an elementary and high school teacher in her native country and in the Caribbean. She was my first teacher and career counselor and encouraged me to think about a career in education. She knew teaching was where I could channel my strengths and make contributions that would have life-long impacts. She knew every day would be different; bring new challenges to push me out my comfort zone and in turn allow me to learn important lessons from the students I served. My mother remains a huge inspiration to me and I continue to learn from her daily.
An inspirational educator I had from high school was my Latin teacher, Ms. Estes. She provided unique learning opportunities, and we experienced our language lessons in a real-world context at all times. Ms. Estes made me realize that school did not have to always consist of a lecturer at the podium with rigid notetaking. The classroom had limitless teaching possibilities; positive relationships with my classmates was key; surprises could be a good thing and learning Latin was enjoyable.
What were your thoughts when you found out you were nominated for and won the award?
It's very special when someone recognizes the work that you do and it was an awesome feeling to be nominated alongside many dedicated colleagues. I was really surprised, and it made me take a step back and really reflect on my journey to this point. My work is fueled by an internal passion to make a difference in the lives of educators and students in online learning because I experienced first-hand the positive impact it had on so many lives. To hear that I was nominated for the award was a huge honor.
The sense of accomplishment I have and the satisfaction I feel when I hear feedback about specific Courseware features which are crucial to program success; make teachers’ lives [easier] and saves them hours of time are things that give me energy and the extra push to stay on this path. I enter each day with renewed focus because I have a personal ownership and a personal stake in what happens with Courseware [and] because I remember so intimately my days working in the classroom directly with the students.
Ketsia’s passion for supporting educators and students is truly inspiring! We’re honored that Ketsia is our first Educator First Award winner, and we’re excited to see all that she will accomplish in the future.