Reflecting Back

Permanent Red Pen


2002: Kaia Sand

 At 17 I still had the dream of many children – to be a doctor.  One reason I went to St. Mary’s College of Maryland, besides the in-state tuition, scholarship, waterfront location, and lacrosse team, was because of their well-respected Biology program, one of the first steps in realizing my dream.


Where the procrastination happened

My first year I studiously worked my way through the course freshmen’s nightmares were made of: P.O.B, Principles of Biology – one of the few courses held in a lecture hall. Of course I didn’t have nightmares about P.O.B….because I was up all night cramming rather than sleeping.

But even more memorable than the dreaded make-or-break-your-future-career class, I also worked my way through Kaia Sand’s Writing 101 course. I was bitter about having to take the course in the first place, since I had already taken AP English in high school.

 But even before I graduated from SMCM, I knew that Kaia’s class was a blessing in disguise. Writing courses were designed thematically at St. Mary’s, and the theme of Kaia’s class was social justice. I still remember being intrigued by excerpts from Nickel and Dimed and Fast Food Nation. I still remember thinking she was a little crazy when she made us keep lists of our favorite words at the top of each page in our notebooks. I still remember the heated discussions that would ignite as we sat outside in the idyllic Garden of Remembrance.

But more than the content of the class, the complexities of a society, the real gift of Kaia’s class was that it gave me confidence and taught me the power of words.

I will always remember Kaia’s comment scrawled across the end of our first writing assignment. “Beautiful. You should consider getting this published!”


Not the message I received. Or wrote.

I didn’t have the confidence then to try to publish, but I liked writing, and if you’re like me,  when someone tells you that you’re good at something, you tend to like it more. The scary thing is that Kaia probably never remembers writing that comment, but it had such a profound impact on me that the next year I decided to add another major to my plate, double majoring in English and Pre-Med, eventually forgoing my original dream of being a doctor without borders to being an English teacher without borders.

Kaia Sand taught me one of the most valuable lessons I keep coming back to as a teacher – what we say to people matters, especially what we say to students. The messages we send them live on, for better or for worse. Thank you for a message that lived on for better, not worse, Kaia.

Students are impressionable. And words are powerful.ClickHandler.ashx


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