MTC '18 Spotlight: Kendall Hardy





1. What made you want to join the Mississippi Teacher Corps?

Throughout my time at Millsaps College, I always found myself working on the peripheries of public education. I knew it was an issue about which I cared deeply, and I wanted to be an advocate for students regardless of where my career took me. During my senior year, I spent time thinking seriously about aligning my life choices with my beliefs. Keeping young talent in Mississippi matters to me, so I wanted to be the young talent in Mississippi who stays. Public education matters to me, so I wanted to be the person actually working in a public school. I saw that Mississippi Teacher Corps provides quality programming and support for people trying to do work that this state needs, and it was something I wanted to be a part of.

2. You're not from Mississippi, but you went to college in Mississippi. What made you want to stay?

Although I am a proud product of a Texas public school, Jackson, Mississippi, is where I grew into the person I am today. My experiences at Millsaps College were intimately tied to the city and state where the college is located, and I didn’t feel that immediately leaving Mississippi would do justice to the amount this place has given me. I do not fault anyone for making the decision to leave the state if that is what they need to do, and I won’t claim to know that I’ll be here forever. What I can say today is that I was fortunate to have a compelling opportunity that kept me here, and I am excited about the work that I’m doing specifically for this state.

3. How have you connected with your students?

If my students know anything about me, it’s that I love following their questions and interests down rabbit holes. One of my favorite parts about teaching has been discovering the miscellaneous bits of information that I’ve accumulated, and I am thankful every day for the opportunity I have to act as a sounding board for the curiosity of young people. Their questions about color theory, colonialism, moral philosophy, ecosystems, politics, and anything else you could imagine constantly keep me learning so that I can keep up with their ideas. This is the value of alternate route teaching—I’ve been able to connect with students by showing them how to use Photoshop for the first time, editing short stories alongside them, or entertaining their radical and original ideas about their lived experiences. My job isn’t just to teach ninth graders Common Core English skills. It’s also to validate their thoughts. Taking that responsibility seriously has brought some beautiful relationships to fruition.

4. If you can, talk about the camaraderie that exists among your cohort. What is it like to be a part of the class of 2018?

Teaching is hard. Transitioning out of being a full-time college student is hard. Moving to a new place is hard. Everyone in my cohort came to MTC from different contexts, and I want to be careful not to imply that anyone’s struggles should be compared to anyone else’s. Despite our differences, though, it is exciting to be surrounded by people with whom I have this shared experience. I would never try to say that Holly Springs is the same as Meridian, or Clarksdale, or North Panola, or any other school where we place, but at a certain level, we are all in this together. I have the privilege of learning from people who have lived lives that are very different from my own, and that makes teaching just a little bit easier.

Hunter Taylor