“My wife, children, and I lived in Togo, West Africa, for 10 years, helping with literacy programs and AIDS education, but then we decided to move back to Memphis. I’ve been teaching art for a year and a half now at Wooddale High School. Establishing myself and building a good rapport with students has given me purpose again. The school gets a lot of bad press, but that’s not the whole story. You’ve got a lot of kids here who deserve a chance. It’s not easy work, but life in Togo wasn't easy either. That's part of what makes it such a rich experience. The students are a little rough around the edges, but when they know that you’re here for them, they really become attached to you. Just knowing that you can invest in a child and that child can feel safe talking to you, that child can feel safe coming into your classroom, that child can do more because you’ve got their back, it’s a special thing. It's real; it's authentic. It definitely takes some time to build connections with the kids and start seeing the benefits, but the vast majority of my students want to learn; they want to do well. The majority are really good kids. I count it a privilege to teach here."
Mark Kennell is an Art History and Visual Arts teacher at Wooddale High School.