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Paul Kanelos

  • Paul

    Evergreen Academy Middle School

My story

I come from a large, first-generation Greek-American family. In this family unit, all participants had distinct roles. Some of these roles were assigned, some were allowed to develop on their own. However, the family unit was able to function in a loving, caring, and understanding way whether through rewarding or traumatic times. This sense of unity was the foundation for my adolescent and adult years. For various reasons, I have lived in rural, urban, and suburban areas during my life. This has given me an acute sense of wanting to feel that I was part of an established community. During a traumatic period of my life, I became a part of the McKinley Park community at Evergreen Academy Middle School where I have served for the past 20 years. My deep sense of faith, family experiences, and desire to serve have allowed me to feel part of an established community. As a young man, I was able to venture out and attempt various things to discover who I was as a person. In many instances, a perceived failure was the outcome. However, these experiences en masse have defined who I have become now. I see now that in failure and success, all is used purposefully in defining the individual. This all allowed me to be given what I needed to experience and learn and try to make a difference. To me, equity means giving individuals the opportunity to use their experiences and who they are as an individual to have learning opportunities without judgment but instead pure unabashed encouragement.

Why I choose to engage in equity work

At Evergreen Academy Middle School, I am the 8th grade history and civics teacher. I choose to engage in equity work so that I can make an impact in my students’ lives by giving them individually what they need to be successful and informed citizens. The focus is to build relationships with students and develop trust so that I can better provide them with what they need to be successful in class and beyond. I also encourage student voice and participation which gives every student a sense of ownership in some degree of the subjects being studied.

My equity challenge and how I work on it

My equity challenge is loosely based on constructivism in education. The challenge is to have students connect with learning in a way in which their life experiences help them become more engaged. This takes into account who they are as an individual and what they bring into the classroom.

What sustains me when equity work stalls, how do I stay motivated when the work gets hard, and how do I push myself and others to advance equity

For me personally, what sustains me and keeps me going when equity work stalls is my faith. I have learned over the years that I do not amount to much without my faith enabling me, encouraging me, and energizing me. What pushes me to do the equity work is the deep-seated, thoughtfully analyzed belief that equity work is the right thing to do. I say this with the understanding that tenets in this country have failed many individuals. We have failed as a people to try and understand individual needs and We have failed as a people try to understand individual needs. True equity work inspires me to work harder and to better understand my fellow human beings.