Class of 2020: Kyndia Riley

Kyndia Riley is graduating with a Master of Teaching in Elementary Education and hopes to stay in Charlottesville to begin her teaching career.

Why did you choose the Curry School for your program of study?

During my second year of undergraduate school at UVA, I was feeling apprehensive about my area of study and what I wanted to do as a career. To reconcile those feelings, I decided to have a chat with my advisor. She sat me down and said, "You will find what you love to do in what you do every single day." I quickly realized that in every spare moment of my days, I was engaged in some form of mentoring, volunteering or tutoring with small children. I had a constant urge to be a nurturer and an agent of change. I looked into the Curry School and every detail of it was surrounded by a dynamic community prided on being impactful, innovative leaders in the world of Education. At the time, I had only taken one introductory course for teaching. But once I continued, I fell in love with the faculty and staff and the content and I knew that Curry was for me.

What is the most significant thing that has shaped your time while you’ve been here?

The most significant thing that has shaped my time while being at Curry is the amount of support and love that the faculty and staff has offered me through the years. Without the guidance of my professors and the wisdom of my advisor, my experience at UVA wouldn't have been the same. Unfortunately, as a student, I was faced with a lot of extenuating circumstances that could have rendered me incapable of continuing my studies. There were times when I thought I was alone and considered myself defeated, but the faculty and staff at Curry ensured that I was okay. They would help me make a way out of no way. They understood my worth and the value that I brought and worked their hardest to serve me. They showed me my capabilities and always forced me to tap into my full potential. They never let me give up and never allowed me to have perfunctory performance.

All in all, they infused me with the passion to move forward and imitate all they've done for me. I now know that as I progress, I have a duty to pay it forward. They also made me aware of the obligation I have to myself to push forward in the toughest of times, regardless of how buried I may feel. Curry is my lifelong reminder that I am beyond adept.

What is one thing you learned during your studies that surprised you most?

As an African American student, I often wondered how our population was continually displaced within educational systems and why teachers were ill-equipped to teach us. I could never decipher its roots, nor could I ever envisage a solution. There was always an overarching assumption that, "Schools were against us," or that "Schools just weren't designed for us."

During my third year at Curry, I began learning about Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT), and it came as a complete surprise to me that my thoughts had already been deliberated and conceived. About two decades ago, Gloria Ladson-Billings introduced the term to describe a form of teaching that calls for engaging learners whose experiences and cultures are traditionally excluded from mainstream settings. It promotes an asset-based approach as alternatives to popular deficit-oriented teaching methods, which position the languages, cultures, and identities of students as barriers to learning. All in all, this restructuring is a transformative move in education. It's always shocking to think of the grueling times that the past yielded and how it has a present domino effect. It sincerely shows how far we've come and how far we have to go.

How are you feeling about being a member of the Class of 2020 in the middle of these unprecedented times?

Being a member of the Class of 2020 during these unprecedented times can feel a bit unnavigable and unreal. As a B/MT student, I was allowed the opportunity to walk across the lawn my previous year. But for those individuals who will not be afforded the graduation ritual, it is disheartening. I am saddened at the idea of not being able to share last moments with my cohort. I am dampened at the thought that I will not be able to enjoy the faculty's graces one last time.

With this, I am glad that in these fleeting moments, we are able to remain positive and innovative. We are aware that for everyone, this situation is new. The Class of 2020 is a community that is ingenious and spirited! We have survived through some of the University's most tumultuous times and in them, we have done so together as a unified front. We have lifted each other up and have maintained vigor. In summary, my feelings are foregrounded in this quote by Og Mandino, "I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness because it shows me the stars."

What will you be doing next?

I anticipate living in and being a teacher in Charlottesville for the next few years. I've built a community and long-standing network here and it would feel like nothing short of betrayal to leave. After teaching for a currently inestimable time, I will pursue my PhD in Anthropology. I am particularly interested in researching prison culture and its bleeding effects. Particularly how incarceration affects student achievement and its direct correlation to student displacement in educational systems.