By Derrick Rosenberg

“Yes, crazy would be my middle name right now,” says Kalamazoo Adult Education leader Kimberly Bell to a secretary as she quickly walks back to her desk.

Bell has spent her afternoon helping students and parents at the office front desk, retreating back to her desk to answer phone calls, hurrying to put documents in the copy machine, retrieving paperwork for students, and meeting with parents at the front desk.

She has time to sit down between quick trips from her desk to the secretary desk, or the copy machine.

“There is no typical day,” Bell explains from behind stacks of papers and folders that tower like a miniature skyline. “I come in with how my day is supposed to look in my head, and then it all kind of falls apart, and you still have to get certain things done.”

Bell and her staff earned the Program of the Year Award for 2012 by the Michigan Association of Community and Adult Education, and their success is well documented. Bell proudly sifts through copies of newspaper articles written about awards they have previously won. She credits the success to her faculty for their hard work and determination.

“They’re dedicated. They’re willing to try anything new. They believe in people.”

Teacher Shows Hard Work In The Classroom

Dana Gay, math and reading teacher, is one of those staff members. Without hesitation, she says her hardest work comes in the classroom. Gay is soft spoken, but the tone of her voice bursts with confidence about the work she does with her students. They enter her class with the most basic education level, she says. “It’s a balancing act because I have about six or seven different levels of literacy.”

Gay conferences individually everyday with students about what skills they need to work on and what skills they are comfortable with. Her work is meticulous. She doesn’t move on to the next subject until all students understand the material. Learning is a community effort in her classroom, with lots of group work.  “When you walk in, you won’t see students at individual desks,” she says.

Hard work has a trickle down affect in this program.

Bell and Gay both used one word to describe their students: Determined. Gay credits her students for their own successes. She says students take responsibility for their schooling and are willing to work and learn despite this being a second, third or fourth chance at school. A smile explodes across her face as she reflects on the thought of her students proudly walking across the stage at graduation; the end result of her and her students’ work.

Her attention comes back to the present, and she heads for the door out of Bell’s office to start the rest of her teaching day.

“So are you off to the county jail then?” Bell asks.

“Yep!” Gay responds. “See you tomorrow.”