COLUMBUS, Miss.--Dr. Kelly Bennett would agree students come in all shapes and sizes.
When Bennett was 4 years old, she would line up her stuffed animals on her bed. Armed with a binder and a pencil, Bennett would teach the animals every day.
“I really thought holding the pencil made me more of a teacher,” Bennett said.
Once Bennett started school, she brought home any old papers and workbooks that her teachers gave her and she taught her sisters, Jessie and Erin. Bennett discovered the lessons she learned from Sesame Street, her mother and from school helped her connect with her “students.”
These days, Bennett’s students are a little older and the setting is more structured. But Bennett’s passion for teaching hasn’t waned. In fact, it has blossomed as an assistant professor of education at the Mississippi University for Women.
Bennett’s love for her work was recognized earlier this year when she was named The W’s Faculty Member of the Year.
“I am grateful and honored to receive this award,” said Bennett, who is from Amory and who has been at The W since August 2018. “Thank you to all of the students and faculty who voted for me, even though I feel undeserving, and to the MUW’s Star and Scepter Chapter of Mortar Board and the MUW Alumni Association for the generous award. I will treasure this forever.”
Bennett said her desire to be a teacher grew as she moved into high school. Her time as a student at The W, where she earned a degree in Elementary Education with seventh- to 12th-grade endorsements in mathematics and English, nurtured her love for teaching. Bennett said every teacher she had at The W was passionate and dedicated and helped her learn more than she ever imagined.
“Once I entered the Teacher Education program, my love for The W grew,” Bennett said. “The professors who taught me how to be an effective teacher weren’t just ‘teaching’ the material; they modeled every technique that they taught us. They inspired me.”
Bennett praised Dr. Barbara Moore for her instruction and guidance in a course that included learning how to write lesson plans. She said Moore had the students write the lesson plans in such detail, and that they all thought it was just awful. However, Bennett later recognized every detail of those plans allowed them to be confident they were prepared the first time they stood in front of their students.
Bennett’s goal is to pass on what she learned from Moore and all of her teachers at The W to the next generation of teachers. She is forever grateful to Moore for pushing her and her classmates and for putting such thought into their assignments because it is helping her to “live her dream.”
Leigh W. Todd, the director of field experience and a visiting assistant professor in School of Education at The W, said Bennett is a “phenomenal” educator who taught her son in high school math.
“Kelly Bennett was one of his favorite teachers, and he praised her as being the reason he was successful in math,” Todd said. “Dr. Bennett works diligently to make sure all students’ needs are met. She takes time to know her students and make true connections with them. The W School of Education is fortunate to have her.”
Deana Pendley, a visiting instructor of education and a program support specialist, agrees Bennett is a deserving pick for Faculty Member of the Year. She said Bennett tirelessly works to help her students and her co-workers.
“She is knowledgeable, loving and gentle with her wisdom,” Pendley said. “Kelly loves her job, and she is in constant motion finding ways to help others in our profession. Kelly has always taken the time to answer and head up problems.”
Bennett has plenty of experience trouble-shooting problems. She played a big role in teaching her sisters Jessie and Erin math after her mother started homeschooling them when they were in the fourth and second grade. Bennett also assisted with other subjects until her sisters graduated. Those early lessons set Bennett on the path to value education just like her mother, Kay, and her grandparents, Barbara and Thomas. Today, Bennett cherishes the opportunity to pass on her love for learning and teaching and to see those “A ha” moments happen with her peers, which is why she was so emotional when she learned she had been named Faculty Member of the Year.
“I give my all, and to know others recognize and appreciate that is overwhelming, and I am just so grateful and honored,” Bennett said. “Teaching is my passion, and I feel honored and rewarded each time I get to teach. Teachers have the power to make or break a student’s academic future with their actions and words, and that is something to remember at all times.”
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July 10, 2020
Contact: Adam Minichino