Education Grad Strives to Make a Difference

Published on May 17, 2018

Brook Bell welcomed the challenges of a career in public education with a smile after graduating from Eastern Kentucky University with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education on May 12. And the awesome responsibility of her path is not lost on her.

“We are about to enter our own classrooms. We will be responsible for changing the world and creating the future,” said Bell in her commencement address to the College of Education. She knows that the next generation of doctors, engineers, soldiers and even teachers will come through her classroom. But she also knows that not all of them will come from privileged backgrounds. Beyond a foundation of knowledge, Bell also seeks to give “love to students who come to school from broken and dysfunctional homes.”

Bell received a heart-wrenching glimpse of how that can look during her first round of clinicals. At her elementary school, she met a little boy. “Let’s call him Jake.” Jake had been in and out of numerous schools and went home to drug-addicted parents. He even confided in Bell that he feared his mother would harm his younger brother someday. As a result of his turbulent home life, Jake had never learned to read. Bell recalled his frustration and embarrassment over struggling to decipher simple words like “the.”

Every day, Bell would leave the school in tears, begging her mother over the phone to adopt the boy. Instead, her mother reminded her of the impact she had on Jake simply by her presence in his class. “I count my lucky stars that I stepped into that classroom,” she said. “I may not have been able to take Jake out of his terrible situation, but because of my education at EKU, I was able to make a small, positive difference in his life.”

Though it was not what she expected, Bell found herself just as in love with teaching as when she was a child lining up her stuffed animals to play school.  “Remember why you went down this crazy path to become an educator,” she said. “All of us have the power to make a difference. We will make an impact every single day, even when we think we are not.”

For parting advice to her fellow graduates, Bell saw fit to consult those most affected by their future careers: students. Their recommendations to future teachers included:

Read a lot.”

 “Keep a calm tone.”

“Push yourself to work hard.”

“Buy a salt lamp.”

And most commonly, “Give out candy.”

-- by Madison Harris, student writer, EKU Communications & Brand Management