Michael Kempski

Position: Sixth Grade Social Studies Teacher School: Shue-Medill Middle School

School District: Christina School District

City, State: Newark, Delaware

About the Nominee: Mike Kempski is a personal and professional hero, particularly to his nominator. Without his leadership and influence over the past 15 years, his nominator would not be where they are today with their own teaching and union work.

A few months ago, Mr. Kempski's nominator and colleague was introduced to a woman whose child attends Shue-Medill Middle School and has Mr. Kempski as a Social Studies teacher. Once Mr. Kempski's nominator and the parent made the connection, the parent raved about Mr. Kempski as a teacher, a partner in her child's education and a leader in the community. She said that Mr. Kempski was a consistent, engaged communicator and described times where her child, who has special educational needs, received extra support from him. Mr. Kempski made the parent aware of a community group that had recently formed to support the district and suggested she reach out to the group members for parent contacts and assistance. His students gain a lot from his unwavering attention to detail, and he demonstrates his knowledge of his content with references to historical topics and events in speeches to colleagues.

Mr. Kempski is outstanding in the classroom, but he also uses his positions of influence to affect change in social justice arenas that directly impact his school, district, community, and state. He creates connections between community groups and the school district that have resulted in some genuine, lasting partnerships. For instance, through the work Mr. Kempski and his nominator have done with the ACLU and their Coalition for Fairness and Equity in Schools, Christina School District is starting a pilot program for restorative practices in three of their schools, one of which is Mr. Kempski's own. He has been an integral part of the work of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, an umbrella organization that governs a sprawling group of committees tasked by the State of Delaware's General Assembly with creating recommendations for improving education in the city of Wilmington, but with implications for the rest of the state. This would, in part, create a more unified school system for the 10,000+ students in the city, many of whom are minorities living in high poverty situations.

For the past two years, Mr. Kempski has served as the President of the Christina Education Association, the local union serving educational professionals in the Christina School District. For two years prior to that, he served as Vice-President of the organization, and for a number of years prior to that, he was the Political Action Coordinator. It is through this sphere that Mr. Kempski's nominator first became aware of and inspired by him.

His demeanor is consistently professional, calm, collected and confident, and his dedication to helping educational professionals maximize their capability to serve students is unparalleled. He sees the path to educational greatness as being paved through improvement of the student experience. Mr. Kempski recognizes leadership in many who don't see it in themselves, and he makes personal connections that strengthen the collegiality of educators and help keep students in the forefront of the educational process.

For these reasons, and so many others, Mr. Kempski is a true LifeChanger. He has always shown himself to be a true leader who does everything for the best reasons.