Personality: Kiara Thompson
Richmond’s Teacher of the Year says students and their experiences motivate and inspire her
5/19/2022, 6 p.m.
It was a typical Friday at school for Kiara Thompson — until it wasn’t.
A science teacher at Thomas C. Boushall Middle School, Ms. Thompson was teaching her third block class two weeks ago when Richmond city and school officials, members of the local news media, her family and col- leagues entered the classroom, announcing her selection as Teacher of the Year for Rich- mond Public Schools.
“I was very emotional as I was overcome with excitement and joy,” Ms. Thompson says in describing her reaction to the surprise announcement and visitors. “I’m so honored to represent RPS.”
Inspired by her love for youths and the impact of her former teachers, Ms. Thomp- son’s educational career began in January 2017 at Boushall. RPS was a particular focus for Ms. Thompson’s career, as she saw it as an opportunity to provide students a teacher that reflected them and their experiences.
As Ms. Thompson sees it, RPS students have validated her career choice by providing her daily motivation and inspira- tion. Her teaching philosophy focuses on building skills inside and outside the classroom, with strong teacher-student relation- ships central to her efforts in creating a space where students feel valued.
In the midst of the COVID- 19 pandemic, Ms. Thompson’s teaching strategies adjusted to the new challenges that included virtual learning. She learned to use additional technology resources and expanded her educational skills. As virtual learning began, Ms. Thompson worked to provide some normalcy for students, using virtual labs to encourage experimentation and inquiry, and specialized projects to ensure collaboration and literary-based activities to enable students to speak and write more often.
“Our youths face so much that could impact their performance and behavior,” Ms. Thompson says. “It is not our job to label students, but to determine how we can best meet their learning and social emotional needs.”
For those who are on the path to becoming teachers, Ms. Thompson encourages them to be open to new information that emerges throughout their career and to always prioritize their students. It’s sound advice, considering the source and the standard she has currently set for education in Richmond.
“As an aspiring teacher, you’re embarking on a critical journey as every career requires a teacher regardless of the field,” Ms. Thompson says. “As a teacher, you must be willing to continuously learn from colleagues and students. Remain student-centered and allow them to be your motivation.”
Meet Richmond’s top teacher for 2022, Kiara Thompson: Occupation Science teacher at Boushall Middle School.
Latest accomplishment: 2022 Richmond Public Schools Teacher of the Year.
Date and place of birth: Jan. 8 in Henrico County.
Where I live now: Richmond. Education: Bachelor’s in science and master’s in public administration from Old Dominion University; post master’s certificate in educational leadership from Virginia Commonwealth University.
Family: I was raised by my mother. I have two sisters and one brother. My fiancé and I are getting married in September. I’ve been a teacher since: January 2017.
First teaching job: Boushall Middle School.
Reaction to top teacher award: I was very emotional as I was overcome with excitement and joy. I’m so honored to represent RPS.
How I got the news: While teaching my third block students, I was surprised when Superintendent Jason Kamras, Rodney Robinson (an RPS administrator who was the 2019 National Teacher of the Year), Boushall’s Principal LaTonya Waller, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, and RPS board chairwoman Dr. Shonda Harris-Muhammad entered my classroom accompanied by my family, colleagues and the news media.
Why I became a teacher: I became a teacher because of my love for youths and the impact that teachers had on my life. I wanted to specifically teach in RPS in order to give my future students the opportunity to see themselves in me. My students are a constant reminder that I made the right career choice. They motivate and inspire me daily.
My teaching philosophy: My teaching philosophy is to not only give my students the skills they need to succeed in the classroom, but those skills that also are needed to succeed in life. Relationship building is very important to create a safe space for my students where they feel valued.
Three teaching strategies I used to help students achieve their goals during virtual learning: During virtual learning it was important for me to give my students some sense of normalcy. I used virtual labs to ensure my students were exposed to various experiments and inquiry-based learning. I also gave my students project-based assessments where they were able to work collaboratively with their peers. These projects were based on the concept of claim evidence reasoning. Additionally, I embedded literacy-based activities to allow opportunities for my students to speak and write more.
Long-term changes in education as a result of the pandemic: One long-term result of the pandemic is the increased need for more mental health and social emotional supports in school. Another long-term result is the increase in the integration of technology in the classroom.
Technology now means: The access to technology has increased, which has given our students more academic and extracurricular-based opportunities. Technology skills are significant and transferrable to be applied in their daily lives.
My teaching style has changed since the COVID-19 pandemic: I had the opportunity to learn additional technology resources and have been able to successfully implement them during in-person learning this year.
Advice to aspiring teachers: As an aspiring teacher, you’re embarking on a critical journey because every career requires a teacher regardless of the field. As a teacher, you must be willing to continuously learn from colleagues and students. Remain student-centered and allow them to be your motivation.
Role of parents/guardians in learning process: Parents and guardians play a pivotal role in the learning process by being supportive of the students and ensuring that they are engaging in learning at home as well.
Biggest challenge facing students today: Unfortunately, students endure trauma and experiences beyond their control that negatively impacts them.
How this challenge impacts schoolwork: The trauma impacts the student’s attendance, ability to focus when present, and behavior.
A good teacher is: Someone who self-reflects on their practices to determine what improvements can be made to benefit the student learning experience. Good teachers have empathy and want the best for their students both inside and outside the classroom. A good teacher builds positive relationships with his or her students.
A good student is: There is no such thing as a bad student. Our youths face so much that could impact their performance and behavior. It is not our job to label students, but to determine how we can best meet their learning and social emotional needs.
How I start the day: I start the day with coffee and music.
The three words that best describe me: Compassionate, determined and resilient.
Best late-night snack: I love sweets!
How I unwind: I unwind by getting my nails or hair done, as well as spending time with family and friends.
What I have learned during the COVID-19 pandemic about myself: I learned that I can do anything. The pandemic created an uncharted territory for educators everywhere. I learned several new skills and successfully taught an entire school year virtually.
Something I love to do that most people would never imagine: I love to watch “The Young and the Restless” soap opera.
A quote that I am most inspired by is: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”.
The top of my “to-do” list is: The top of my daily “to-do” list is to be positive.
The best thing my mother ever taught me: The best thing my mom taught me was how to be a strong Black woman. She did this by instilling core values in me and by always being my biggest supporter. She is the epitome of strength and I adore her so much.
The person who influenced me the most: My mother and grandmother are phenomenal women who have greatly contributed to me being the woman that I am today.
What I’m reading now: The “Mometrix Test Preparation” book for earth science. I am committed to lifelong learning and will be testing to add the earth science endorsement to my teaching license.
Next goal: My next goal is to be named Region 1 Teacher of the Year.