"From the first day of school to the last, my mission is to let my students know that I believe in them and that they are worthy of love and capable in every sense of the word," said Kendra Metz.
The key, according to Metz's former students, colleagues and parents, is to find each student’s unique needs, take interest in her students outside the classroom and use inventive projects to expand their learning and give back to their community.
Metz regularly attends students’ birthday parties and other special occasions. The class reads a book together then heads to the movie theater to see the film made from the book. And the entire class creates an Italian restaurant as a fundraiser and educational lesson.
For the Italian restaurant, the students apply and interview for jobs, work together to make homemade pasta, take reservations and serve more than 200 guests in two hours. The money raised is used for special projects such as books for at-risk readers or class trips for other students. The project is designed to "pay it forward" to other students to teach the value of giving.
"I have so many memories of Kendra’s incredible teaching," writes a former colleague. "Kendra stopping individual kids on their way in or out just to check in to see how they were doing. Kendra covered in flour while orchestrating yet another of her famous pasta-making days in preparation for the Italian restaurant."
The lessons learned in Metz’s classroom continue for years.
"In Mrs. Metz’s classroom, each student was able to express him or herself," writes a former sixth-grade student now in high school. "She is an accepting and inspiring person and every one of her pupils flourishes under her wing. … I always felt comfortable talking to Mrs. Metz and was able to show my true colors in her classroom."
For Metz, those comments are high praise.
"If I can help my students find their voice and feel comfortable in their own skin," Metz said, "If I can show them the humor, beauty and love in the world, then maybe they will contribute to society in their own turn."
A graduate of Lawrence High School, Metz earned her bachelor's degree in education from Washburn University, a master's degree in education from Baker University and her English as a Second Language licensure from Kansas State University.