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Students were asked to write a poem, rap, or song about a teacher or program at their school that inspired them.
These questions were meant to amplify the voices of those that are most impacted by school choice – the children. Many times, we overlook the voices of those most affected by education policy decisions. This contest was focused on giving students in the St. Louis area a voice and an opportunity to express their opinions on education.
Last week we honored the winners of the contest with a special National School Choice Week event at the Stage at KDHX. The event featured readings by the top student poets, readings by Michael Castro (First St. Louis Poet Laureate) and Jane Ellen Ibur (Nominated St. Louis Poet Laureate) and musical performances by TreG and AndroBeat.
Middle school winners included Isabella Bracken, 1st Place; Jaylee Schulz, 2nd Place; Emily Leitner, 3rd Place; and runners-up Noah Clark, Shua Jeon, Brianne Simmons, and Aria Thompson. Their full poems can be read below, but check out this video of the top three reading their poems:
High school winners included Keana Fox, 1st Place; Rachel Jackson, 2nd Place; November Settles, 3rd Place; and runners-up Andrea Hudson and Aliscia Smith. Their full poems can be read below, but check out this video of the top three reading their poems:
Could you believe how much I’ve seen?
How much I’ve heard?
How much I’ve touched?
If only you knew, I wish you knew, because I’ve seen so much.
I’ll protect you from distraction outside
If you promise to play that music, move that slide!
Music was sent from heaven above,
So care for that instrument, show it love.
‘Cause it’ll get you places you never knew
You’ll do things, you never thought you could do
Beethoven was a youth, Brahms and Bach
They played the same scales, played the same block.
So BOOM goes that drum
And TOOT goes that horn!
Play again and again, never get bored!
Play like Brahms, Beethoven, and Bach,
We may be young, but we’ve got what we’ve got!
“I can’t do it, I quit!”
Don’t say those things! Use your wit!
Music flows like a river, It’s as smooth as glass
I’m so lucky to be the door to this class.
Music touched heaven, gathered some of it’s glory.
Then It came down to Earth, to begin it’s amazing story.
It’s perfect like magic
And It’s sweet like sugar
And It’s sour like lemons
And it’s bitter like salt
As I stare into the classroom, I see nothing but joy!
You love what you do!
You think of this as talent, not some toy!
You love your teacher, she bubbles with success!
She shares it with you, to be the best of the best!
As life goes on, students come and go,
When they leave for the last time, I get to know
To remember their first practice, I watched them grow.
And as you come in for your very first time,
I stare into the future, with my knowing eyes
And see your face as you leave silent as a mime
You’ll get scholarships, college and more
What can I say, I’m only a door
But a door to the future
A door to your hobby
A door to your favorite things in life
Whether it be the flute, cello, bass drum or more
Again, I’m only a door
And a door to the future, I may be
I’m a pretty good door, now I see
A door to the future, the first and last
A taken for granted, piece of wood and glass
But a good piece of glass I know I can be
Music knows how to inspire me
Music is sacred, like the firstborn lamb
A door to music
That I Am.
Isabella Bracken, 6th grade – Word of Life Lutheran School – First Place
My kindergarten teacher
Who probably thought I was a creature
I would scream, kick, punch, bite
All I would do was fight
I wanted to go home
Where I could roam
Where I was free
And everyone would leave me be
I would throw a fit every day
But Mrs. Moorman showed me the way
She taught me school was fun
And I did not have to run
I became a good child
Who was no longer wild
Mrs. Moorman helped me meet my best friend
It was the perfect blend
Emily is her name
And she has no shame
Mrs. Moorman my kindergarten teacher
Who no longer thinks I’m a creature
Jaylee Schulz, 7th grade – Word of Life Lutheran School -Second Place
A leaf blowing in the wind
She moved me
A flag waving proudly in the air
She inspired me
Like the autumn leaves
She changed me
A lion to her cub
Like an eagle flying over the canyon
She moved me
A tree to its bark
Keeps going in the dark
She changed my life forever
Mrs. Maxfield, Mrs. Maxfield
I know I’m not the best writer
But you made me brighter
You taught me that a poem
Isn’t just groups of words that rhyme
In the night sky
A shining star
Thank you for being the Amazing person
Emily Leitner, 7th grade- Word of Life Lutheran School – Third Place
In this world, there are the proud trumpets,
the calm flutes,
the outspoken drums,
the cool saxophones,
the shy clarinets,
and the oddball trombones
The world has many instruments, but not enough directors.
Instruments conflict and clash—
A director leads them into one cohesive melody
A director blends a band, as one would twist a rope;
The instruments of the band are still individual, yet they form one melody,
The stands of the rope are still individual, yet they are bound together,
They are individual, and separate, yet together, yet strong
A blend of voices, of talents, and of strengths.
They are still separate instruments, and yet they act as one;
They have one melody, one song, they work together in a singular goal
The world has many instruments, but not enough directors.
In band, we are together, we are one—
We show the world it can be done.
We have the power to be trumpets or trombones,
We have the power to be instruments or directors.
We have the power to lead or to follow,
To bring together in unity, or bring about hate.
The world has many instruments, but not enough directors.
Noah Clark, 8th grade – Word of Life Lutheran School – Runner-Up
I am back in the full class, sitting on a hard, metal seat.
He paces back and forth in a rhythmic beat.
Once his talkative mouth begins to open,
We all anticipate the story, bodies frozen.
The atmosphere is damp, dark, and cold.
We obey the commander, no one likes his scold.
Walls of dirt and stone holds the mucky stench.
Sometimes I regret life and wonder why we sided with the French.
I think I am hallucinating when I see a German man
Holding a six inch Christmas tree in a tin can.
Weary and tried, he starts beautifully singing.
Like zombies, everyone sings along and quits firing.
The bell blares and I am jerked back to reality,
Longing to feel the story that I now can’t see.
From Teddy Roosevelt to the Great Depression,
I wonder what will be the next lesson.
Shua Jeon, 8th grade – Sperring Middle School – Runner-Up
My comfort when I couldn’t keep it in.
The words I needed to here.
Your words were so great they even had an impact on my own.
You’re understanding when I don’t know what to say.
The best part of you is that you aren’t my mother.
I was one of your children,
But I was never in the family photo.
For my teacher you are and my teacher you will be.
Brianne Simmons, 8th grade – Sperring Middle School – Runner-Up
little ears opening
to sounds and notes
that seem to be winging
across the page they were wrote
this is an existence
of imagination and wonder
it has eternal patience
that no human can conjure
a thunderstorm of emotion
like the push and pull of the tide
a shifting, pulsing ocean
a swelling of pride
drums pounding out rhythms
singing voices will rise
to a new kind of anthem
that never will die
Here you will learn
but not in the usual way
here you will learn,
laugh, love, and play
here you will gain
here you will dream
here you will reign
hear you’re a team
my music class
fills me with delight
It’s an art to grasp
a flame to light
Aria Thompson, 8th grade – Word of Life Lutheran School – Runner-up
In a fortress of uniform colored corridors
Where the hallways twist into a seize of architectural snakes
That teenagers systematically navigate,
A chamber lies.
A door opens its wooden mouth,
Desks reside as molars, his chair the lone wisdom tooth,
Chalkboards the gummy cheeks, and his desk
The prime metaphor of a tongue.
Stacks of ungraded shenanigans pile
Like potential cavities, and when
A late paper timidly falls into
His large hands, his mustache will curl,
His eyebrows will convers ate with one another,
Furrowing, like shaking their heads with disappointment,
Whispering impressions of frustration into the bellows of
His room that’s adorned with hamlet and Shakespeare.
Ophelia beckons from the corner, listening tentatively
As he carries his morning lecture,
Intimidation thickens, fear burbles, do we dare peek past our eyelids?
Sarcasm dwindles at the edge of his lips, his voice a booming exterior,
To our egos that transcend into inferior folklores. Our complaints are crushed
Underneath Odysseus’s fist when his mention of essays duplicate the
Odyssey on our To-Do lists.
However, I think that beneath his repertoire,
And literary crown that shows
He rules the AP English castle,
There is more than just the intimidation
That shakes the third floor,
I personally think his mustache makes him look
Like a walrus.
He drinks orange juice from the bottle,
Claiming it as his soul food, folding the plastic into a chalice.
And even if his voice excels in decibels, and his words
Are tinged with sass and irony,
He has sat down and taken the time to talk to our writing,
Teaching our pencils how to understand epiphanies,
Instructing them to move in ribbons of description,
So, each word basks underneath the heavens of
Imagery, soaking in purpose as each sentence
Transforms into music playdoh that starts riots
On notebook paper stanzas.
Through his instruction, he allows us to
Tilt our heads to the sky, and position a straw to the clouds,
So that we can suck in this literary magic,
And find our authorly voices through
The melted laugh of the sun.
His helping hands reaches us through
Each essay we produce, urges us to push past the pencil
So that we can learn this art of writing,
Not through sighs, unified complaints, or
Something we can’t stand,
But as the genuine beauty that is exposed
As an ethereal goddess of literary phenomenon.
My English teacher, is the inspiration that keeps
The lesson plan of writing, not as common core,
But as the centrality of who we are creatively,
So that we may find ourselves within his loopy, slanted
Feedback, and his knack for improving us as writers.
I will face the frontier of our world,
With him as an eternal inspiration.
I will remember
The wormholes he has left inside my pen and paper,
Which keep my motivation and passion
Connected all throughout this journey of discovery
As one of his students inside the AP English castle
Keana Fox, 11th grade – Collinsville High School – First Place
Black Student Union
Living in the footsteps of our ancestors we trying to make a difference,
Yea, we know we teenagers but we are hoping people will listen.
We striving for this thing called “Black Excellence,”
Changing the world with our big brains and our intelligence.
Showing that we can work hard using our intellectual thoughts,
Praising NAACP for the battles they fought,
But if we want to change the world we got to start with ourselves,
We got to start picking up history books off the bookshelves.
Being pressured by society we hoping to become diamonds,
Automatically putting our hands up when we hear those sirens.
Black Lives Matter man, that’s our movement,
We ain’t stopping until we see some improvement.
United We Stand Separated We Fall!
One day we gonna scream “Freedom-for-All!”
I’m apart of Black Student Union and I’m proud of that,
We gonna change the world now that’s a fact!
Rachel Jackson, 9th grade –Metro High School – Second Place
Dedicated to Mr. Gulath
Some teachers focus on the hard, cold facts
Teaching the subject they studied and nothing more
So thank you to the teacher that taught,
That the world cannot be changed by just thought.
The experiences we go through shape who we are
It shapes what we see
The Strong, The Bold, The Cautious, The Meek
By asking a simple question,
“Why do you believe what you believe?”
Do you hold your parents’ stance on solutions?
Or did you come to your own conclusions?
You taught that experiences shape what we do,
And no one has the same mindset as you.
So thank you to the teacher who put perspective in place,
By showing that a story never has only one face.
November Settles, 12th grade – Mehlville High School – Third Place
Fixed” My Mind
Smart. Was I fixed to think it comes from
A girl with pig tails and nerdy glasses?
What about pretty? Does it come with long wavy hair?
Light toned skin? Hazel eyes?
WELL DOES IT?
Smart doesn’t have a look, it has a trait.
No matter what they say you are Smart.
You are a unique and wonderful work of art.
Beauty? It doesn’t have to have hazel eyes or long hair.
If society makes us feel low because we lack, scream “I DON’T CARE!!”
What does beauty have to be?
Beauty is nice. Beauty is patient. Beauty is optimistic. Beauty is helpful.
Beauty isn’t just fashionable, Beauty isn’t just glowing skin. Beauty lasts forever.
Andrea Hudson DOES NOT wear pig tails.
Andrea Hudson DOES NOT have hazel green eyes
OH! And Andrea’s hair isn’t wavy and long.
It’s Kinky and Course just how she likes it.
Andrea Hudson, 9th grade – Metro High School – Runner-Up
Each day I will do my best
And won’t do nothing less
My classwork will always please me
And my teacher won’t accept a mess
I’ll answer questions very carefully
My writing will be neat
I will not be very happy
Until all my work is complete
I’ll always do my homework
And try my best on every test
I will never forget my promise
To do my very best
Aliscia Smith– 10th grade – Mehlville High School – Runner-Up
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