LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Kim Laird

Position: Eighth Grade English Language Arts Teacher
School: Panther Valley Junior/Senior High School
School District: Panther Valley School District
City, State: Lansford, PA

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Kim Laird was nominated by one of her students.

The dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.

"Kim Laird has impacted generations of students through her work as an English teacher, club advisor, coach, and mentor," explains her student. "She has invested her whole heart and soul into her work, offering inspiration and encouragement to the entire school community. I am one of many students here today because of her influence, her genuine concern for our well-being as humans, and the unconditional support she offered academically across subject areas and creatively through her multitude of clubs and activities.

"Kim is a LifeChanger and a lifesaver, and I know I am not alone in saying I would not be here today without her," said the nominator. "Because of her, many students have found reasons to keep going, raise their own expectations, believe in themselves, and pursue and achieve their dreams. Because of her, we are professors, doctors, lawyers, researchers, parents, police officers, therapists, artists, and good humans who hope and believe that we can make a difference because she made a difference for us."

"In a small community with limited resources and even fewer opportunities for children to safely occupy their time, Kim ensured there was never a shortage of events and activities for us to explore," said the student. "She advised the newspaper, yearbook, Odyssey of the Mind, Destination Imagination, juggling club, and theater. Kim ran the field day, talent show, after-school tutoring, before-school mentoring, and anything else we needed when no other adult could take the role of advisor. I am using past tense because I haven't been her student for many years, but she is still somehow finding the time and energy to continue saving the world one child at a time. Kim has even taken on new courses and positions with her retirement on the horizon, never ceasing to give her all and do whatever it takes to make our school and community the best they can be. When so many view our old coal mining valley as less than it truly is, she highlights the potential and opportunity in each student, nurturing success we often don't recognize was possible. It is difficult to imagine a Panther Valley without her, but her upcoming retirement is well-earned, and I'm confident she will remain a driving force in the community."

"Kim has served as a leader in several formal and informal capacities, spearheading new academic initiatives and student groups," said the student. "Most importantly, she has embodied the role of a strong leader through her everyday example. In college, I was fortunate enough to attend a leadership institute. They could have learned a lot from Kim, who had already demonstrated everything in their leadership curriculum and made me feel as if I could not only do anything I put my mind to but also help others shine from the time I was in 7th grade. She showed me that a leader isn't the loudest, smartest, or most important person in the room. She showed me that a leader is a person who helps others find their voice, pursue their passions, and feel valued for who they are. And I am not the only one. I know because her former students keep in touch. We continue to lead from the middle, supporting each other through our adult lives as we strive to do for others what Kim has done for us. The greatest leaders inspire others to lead."

"One aspect of leadership is doing your best without the expectation of recognition," said the student. "Kim has never preferred the spotlight. She helped us to take the stage, made sure we were celebrated for our achievements, and always connected any of her own success to her students' credit. I understand this now, as an educator myself. We are only great teachers because our students motivate us to be. Still, Kim has a record of excellent professional performance, as evidenced by numerous student-nominated teaching awards, exceptional professional evaluations, and achievements for service and performance in the community. While she has been identified as an exceptional educator, I don't feel enough light has been shed on the truly life-changing impact she made throughout her teaching career. This individual has made our world better through her influence, and so many of us are immeasurably grateful."

"There are favorite teachers. There are distinguished teachers. There are inspirational teachers. Then there are life-changing teachers who make you feel like one of 'their kids' for the rest of your life. They don't stop being your teacher when you leave their classroom, and you don't stop being 'their kid' when you graduate," said the student. "Kim maintains contact and continues to support her students as they start careers, families, and lives beyond school. She never stops believing in us and continues to nurture our sense of self-worth and pursuit of success. Not only has Kim helped us to feel appreciated and included as individuals, but she also helped us to connect and build community. We formed lifelong friendships in the inclusive classroom environment she provided for us, along with the safe havens of the many clubs she advised. Kim gave us active roles in creating and designing the world we shared while in school, which let us know we had the power to control how we shape the world beyond. She cares for us; some of us learned to care for ourselves and others by following her example"

"Kim Laird taught me that doing what is right isn't always easy," said the student. "This was a lesson she imparted directly in her classroom, through readings and discussion of literature which helped me explore and define my own middle school moral and ethical standards. We examined the gray areas between right and wrong, complicated by motivations, belief systems, and motives. We learned about how we are defined by our actions and words, and the character we develop. Through our community interactions and her guidance in our activities, she taught us how to be good citizens and good humans. Through her example, she taught us how to stand up for what we believed in and to advocate for others. We saw how hard she worked to give us more opportunities, and how much she fought for us and risked to help us achieve our goals. She was not afraid to confront other teachers, administrators, board members, or community members for our best interests."

"Through her, I learned how to choose my battles wisely," said the student. "I learned how to accept defeat with humility and compassion. I learned how to persevere and persist. We saw her heart ache for us and knew that she was only human, as magical as she sometimes seemed. That is all the more life-changing to me. Although everything is special about Miss Laird, there is nothing that makes what she does unattainable to the students she inspires. We can change lives because she changed ours."

"As Kim spends her last year in the classroom, I want to be certain she knows all of the decades she has spent behind the spotlight shining it on her students have brightened our world," said the student. "It's time for Kim to be recognized for her legacy, and for all the kids here today because of her...While I am sure there are many other life-changing teachers nominated for this recognition, Kim Laird is the one who saved my life. I will forever be grateful for her lifelong guidance, encouragement, celebration, and comfort. I had opportunities to grow and learn as a student and person, traveling for academic competitions and performing arts, because Kim pointed the way. She saw something in me I hadn't seen in myself."

"I was a quiet, anxious, cynical child before Kim showed me the yellow brick road and helped me to believe that somewhere over the rainbow was something within my reach," said the student. "I found my voice and gained the confidence to use it tactfully. I learned how to identify and connect with people and places that quiet my anxiety, and I saw how my cynicism could balance with optimism to promote meaningful change. I survived middle school and high school with Miss Laird as my teacher and adviser, thrived in college and my early teaching years with Kim as my mentor, and have built a family, school community, and dream of my own with Kim as my friend. She will continue to change lives, directly and through the students she has impacted, long after her retirement."

"Congratulations on a life-changing career, Miss Laird! You will always be the LifeChanger of a Lifetime to 'your kids,'" said the student.


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