Tracing my strengths as a teacher back to an inflection point in my own adolescence.

Teachers can make incredible connections with their students that strengthen their learning and growth. But what happens when there’s a missed connection?

In this personal and moving audio piece inspired by George Ella Lyon’s poem “Where I’m From,” science teacher and Knowles Senior Fellow Kirstin Milks describes how an interaction with one of her own high school teachers echoed forward into her life as an educator.

“As a teacher, you have to be able to understand what stories might be out there in the world, so that you can recognize the underlying stories of the people—of the students—who come your way.”

Listen to Kirstin’s story to hear her describe how her experiences have affected how she supports her students, and learn more about how she’s grown from developing a personal practice of storytelling.

“These stories, my true stories, are part of how my students and I work together and how we talk together, and how I can be there for them.”

Content warning: This story contains themes of childhood trauma and mental illness.

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Kirstin Milks, a Knowles Senior Fellow and an editor-in-chief of Kaleidoscope, learns with and from AP Biology and Earth/space students at Bloomington High School South in Bloomington, Indiana. She’d like to thank the participants of the Beyond Words workshop at the 2018 Knowles Teacher Initiative Summer Meeting, the staff of Kaleidoscope, and her family for helping her learn to tell this story. Reach Kirstin at