February 08, 2019

MAT ’13 alumnae addresses the power of poetry in Teaching Tolerance

Focusing on Maya Angelou’s Still I Rise resonated with her elementary class.

Amanda Jensen, Elementary MAT ’13, teaches third and fourth grade. Last spring, she was published in Teaching Tolerance, answering the question “who is Maya Angelou to you,” and contributing to their compilation piece in honor of what would have been Angelou’s 90th birthday. An excerpt of Jensen’s piece is included below, and the full article is available on Teaching Tolerance’s website.

The Power of Poetry

Originally published by Teaching Tolerance in spring 2018.

When Amanda Jensen saw her third- and fourth-graders struggling to process feelings of fear and uncertainty during the 2016 election, she decided to get them thinking and talking about power and agency. Armed with a shelf full of books about diverse leaders, Jensen set out to teach her students about people who have made a difference in times of adversity.

In the process, she found that kids were particularly drawn to one person—Maya Angelou. “There’s something about that poem, ‘Still I Rise,’” says Jensen. “Once you find its meaning and make connections with it, it’s a poem that stays with you forever.”

Knowing that her class had engaged well with art projects in the past, Jensen decided to use art to help students connect with the message of empowerment in Angelou’s poem. She asked students to read a portion of the poem, explain what they thought the passage meant and how it made them feel, and then illustrate their thoughts.

“The poem makes me feel stronger than I am right now. It also makes me feel that I can do more than I can right now.” — elementary student


Read the full article on Teaching Tolerance’s website.