Kelley Cusmano, Michigan Educator Voice Fellow
State and City of Residence:
HS ELA & Leadership Teacher
Why do you work in education? OR What brought you to work in education?
I work in education because I want to make a difference in children's lives. I know that I have been blessed to have wonderful mentors and support in my life, but not everyone has been so lucky. I want to provide a spark, some love & a passion for reading, writing and leadership to every student who comes into my classroom, regardless of their background or learning style. I love that in education, every day & every student is different and that I am held accountable by 150 teenagers each and every day.
Tell us about something that you have done in education (either alone or working with a group) that you feel has made or will make a big difference for your community? (What was the problem you were addressing, and what were the outcomes? What do you see that is changing?)
I developed Rochester High School's leadership class/student council program from a blow-off elective & club into an award-winning force of nature. When I started teaching leadership, I could see that I had a lot of students who were passionate about doing things for others and had a lot of energy, but needed a place and a purpose. Now, our leadership class does that for many students at Rochester High School. Our class is known throughout our community and we help run activities & community across our school, our elementary & middle schools and with different community organizations. I teach students how to be their own type of leader every day and it is truly a challenge & a joy.
What’s your favorite part about being an America Achieves Fellow?
I love the network of like-minded education world changers the group has brought me into contact with. Before I became a Fellow, I loved talking with other teachers and I had even attended some conferences, but I had no clue that there was a whole group of teachers who felt the same passion towards changing education policy and the education landscape. These are the people that I now collaborate with on projects, engage on social media and get all sorts of advice from. It has been a valuable professional resource for me and my practice.
If you could change just one thing about our current education system, what would it be?
The neglect of teacher voice in education policy decisions. Teachers have expertise, they have experience and they have passion about all of the education changes that have been introduced at the local, state and federal levels. Teacher voice should be an integral part of all those policy conversations and decisions should not be made until a group of teachers has been consulted. I also think that it should be mandatory to have a group of teachers work in conjunction with their state legislators!
Who is your biggest inspiration?
Okay this is going to be cheesy but my identical twin sister Sarah Giddings, who is also an America Achieves Fellow. She is a go-getter and pushes herself to be an amazing leader in education, ed teach and many other innovative teaching practices. I love her enthusiasm for this career and her support of me in everything I do. She inspires me to stay with this often undervalued, incredibly messy world that is teaching and aim to do it better every day. #mytwinrocks
What is one book every educator must read?
Teacherpreneurs: Innovative Teachers who lead but don't leave. Reading this book made me realize that if I want to change education, I don't necessarily have to leave the classroom. I love teaching and engaging with students and it makes me sad that many people feel that they have to step outside the classroom in order to create opportunities for themselves in ed leadership. This book gives you examples and all sorts of ideas for how to create your own path and embark on education leadership opportunities. Inspiring!
Kelley Cusmano has been an English & Leadership teacher at Rochester High School in the Rochester Community School District since 2008. She has a Bachelor's Degree in English, a Master's Degree in Curriculum and Instruction and a pending Administrative Certificate all from Michigan State University. She is the RHS student council adviser and serves on the Michigan Association of Student Councils Advisery Board. Also, she is a high school English Teacher Leader for Rochester Community Schools. This year she will be a Michigan Educator Fellow as well as a member of the Teacher Leadership Initiative. She is married and has two adorable girls, a four year old and a two year old. She is so excited to be a part of the Michigan Educator Voice Fellowship and looks forward to using this opportunity to increase teacher voice and ownership in the education decision making process.