Connections: Linking Talented Educators
Connections: Linking Talented Educators

Spotlight: Kendra Borden (RI '15)

January 21, 2016

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Kendra Borden (RI '15) worked in the insurance business before starting her ELA teaching career. She received her Milken Educator Award on October 14, 2015 at Samuel Slater Junior High in Pawtucket.

Milken Family Foundation: How did you end up in education?

Kendra Borden: I have wanted to be a teacher my entire life. I used to play school at home on my small chalkboard. I made anyone and everyone play the role of my students. I wanted to teach in secondary schools because I found the curriculum exciting; I felt I would be able to engage students because of my passion for the subject.

MFF: What was your first job?

Kendra: I worked for Nationwide Insurance for many years, but an office was not where I belonged.

MFF: Who was your own most memorable teacher?

Kendra: There are two. My 10th-grade history teacher Mr. Taborelli was the most passionate teacher I have ever encountered. His love of the subject and capacity to captivate all students in every class was inspiring. I can still remember his rage as the intercom would interrupt his lesson and our frustration as students because we wanted to hear what he had to say. Also, and this is the woman I credit for inspiring me to become a secondary English teacher: Ms. Gerisole. She made English Language Arts class interesting. We read British literature and it came alive. She was serious when she had to be and held students accountable for their work, but she also laughed. Her rapport with students and love of literature made being a teacher look like the best job in the world. Now I know that it most certainly is.

MFF: Tell us about your first year of teaching.

Kendra: I was so nervous. I didn't know how to command a classroom and engage the students. It took a few months of being in the classroom and getting to know my students before I felt truly comfortable. I didn't know how to get a baseline of their abilities and measure progress. I was doing my best to deliver the curriculum in the most interesting and rigorous way I possibly could.

The moment of that year I remember most is when I found out that one of my students wasn't eating dinner at night because his family had no money. He was only eating school breakfast and lunch. It was a real eye-opener for me. I was blind to what my students were experiencing outside of the four walls of my classroom. Here was this kind and very shy student who was not doing well in my class, and with all the help I was offering him and all the accommodations I was making, my frustration was growing because he wasn't working to his potential. I finally understood there are situations outside of school that impede the learning of my students, and with that I became a more compassionate teacher. I learned to get to know my students both as students and as people. This has helped me to help them in life and in learning.  

What took me by surprise after my first year teaching is the role classroom structure plays in the success of middle school students. When you build a routine and students know your expectations, it fosters motivation and innovation. Students are more likely to engage in their learning because there are no surprises. This helps when holding them to such high expectations.

MFF: A student tells you he/she is thinking about a career in education. How do you convince him/her?

Kendra: Simple. I tell him/her it is the best job in the world. I also tell them if they teach what they love then they will love to teach. Just always remember to be patient.

MFF: What impact do you think your Milken Educator Award presentation had on students at your school?

Kendra: I have never seen the students so proud to be at Slater Middle School. They were on the news and now one of their teachers is "rich." They crack me up! It truly did give them a sense of pride to be a Slater Spartan and I loved how excited my students were to tell the other students in the building "that's my teacher!" 

MFF: What’s your favorite time of the school day?

Kendra: Every period before lunch. This is when students are the most focused and motivated. After lunch it's almost as though they lose their steam. Although they will still work hard in class, they are always more willing to put in the extra effort in the beginning of the school day.  

MFF: If someone gave you a million dollars to use in your classroom, what would you do with it?

Kendra: Buy books and a smart board!  

MFF: When you retire (someday), what do you want your former students and colleagues to say about you?

Kendra: I hope my my students thank me for opening their eyes to the importance of an education. I want my colleagues to say I was a positive person who brightened their day and was always there to share ideas and information to take back into the classroom.

MFF: If you hadn’t chosen a career in education, what would you be doing right now?

Kendra: I honestly don't think there is any other career I should be in or that I would love as much as teaching. However, if I had to choose I think I would be in the military fighting for our country.

MFF: Finish this sentence: "I know I’m succeeding as an educator when…."

Kendra: "...the bell rings and students complain that they don't want to leave my class."

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