Milken Scholar Amanda Gorman Inspires Students With Her WordsJanuary 27, 2021
When 2016 Milken Scholar Amanda Gorman stood behind the podium at the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2021, she took her place in history as the youngest-ever Inaugural Poet Laureate. The world was inspired as she recited "The Hill We Climb," which she completed in the shadow of the January 6 insurrection. Many classes watched Amanda's mesmerizing performance together. We asked Milken Educators to share some of their students' reactions.
Jane Fung (CA '02) | Transitional kindergarten | Belvedere Elementary School, Los Angeles
I teach special education and English language learners who are four and five years old. We talked about the fact that Amanda is from Los Angeles, that her mom is a teacher, and that she has overcome challenges. I don't think the kids grasped the meaning of her words, but they understood that she was young, speaking in front of a lot of people, and faced obstacles, like they do. I wanted my students' parents to see and hear Amanda, a girl of color representing Los Angeles, to see the possibilities for their own children. Together we all discussed the fact that they, my students, are the future leaders of our country. This was one time I wished I taught older students!
Madeline Hanington (MD '11) | Staff development teacher | Hallie Wells Middle School, Clarksburg
I run a sixth grade Lady Scholars book club. After discussing our latest novel, we watched and discussed Amanda's poem. The girls were in awe of her words. They loved her passion for what she was saying. Their favorite quote: "For there is always light, / if only we're brave enough to see it. / If only we're brave enough to be it." They talked about how they feel empowered and inspired by her words. Honestly, they could not stop smiling!
Nikki Silva (NJ '18) | Third grade | Nathan Hale Elementary School, Carteret
Things I overheard from my students as we watched Amanda recite her poem:
"She's brave to talk in front of so many people."
"Amanda really is proud of America!"
"She makes me believe in all of us."
Shannon Garrison (CA '08) | Fifth grade | Stonehurst STEAM Magnet School, Sun Valley
I was so excited to share "The Hill We Climb" with my fifth graders. Teaching young people who are from the same city and dealing with many of the same issues she dealt with growing up, I knew they would connect with her.
After listening to Amanda deliver her speech, my students were in complete awe. They said they never knew poetry could sound like that. Her words made them feel. Several of my students cope with speech and language challenges. They were inspired that she had risen and overcome those obstacles.
After listening to the poem, we read it together as a class, discussing themes and sharing our favorite lines. We connected her words to our country's current issues, to struggles of the past, and to challenges that we must face moving forward. In the end, my students felt that the poem gave them hope, inspiration, and light.
Hailey Couch (OK '18) | Second grade | Adams Elementary School, Norman
We watched Amanda recite her poem a few days after the inauguration. "I think this poem was perfectly said," one student told me. Said another: "I love how she talked about hope. I want to have hope." Other comments:
"I think it is important we come together. We must work together."
"This is a fresh start."
"She is brave. I want to be brave like her."
In fact, my second graders were so inspired by "The Hill We Climb" that after we were done, they made a special request: They wanted to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. And so, of course, we did.
Silvia Miranda (NM '18) | Fourth grade | Mesa Elementary, Clovis
My students' reactions were powerful. "I have a speech impediment, but now I can picture myself standing in front of everyone and showing them I can do it!" said one. A girl said, "I'm going to be the first woman president and write my own inauguration poem." And this one made me cry: "When I haven't seen the light, I never thought that I could be the light!"
I made an acrostic poetry worksheet to use as part of our discussion. They needed a little structure, a starting point. Using the letters in "The Hill I Climb," students wrote about their goals, dreams, and the hills and obstacles they are climbing right now in their lives.
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