How do I begin my quest to express just how amazing Lakisha Odlum truly is? Without a doubt, she is the most dedicated, knowledgeable, highly motivated and highly effective English teacher I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. For four consecutive years I had the privilege of working alongside Lakisha Odlum as a member of the English Language Arts department at the Eagle Academy for Young Men of Southeast Queens. Throughout that time, Ms. Odlum proved to be nothing short of a blessing and, although we now each work at different schools, she continues to possess a wealth of knowledge with regard to the teaching profession and selflessly, without discrimination or hesitation, shares all viable professional information which she becomes privy to with her colleagues. Truly, she is all about the team model and exemplifies this philosophy day in and day out.
She sought to and succeeded in making our school a Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History school. This privilege affords the entire staff access to an online plethora of social studies and ELA interdisciplinary documents, seminars, books, posters, etc. She has taken her work as a Common Core Teacher Fellow for the New York City Department of Education and facilitated numerous professional developments about literacy across the content areas and the Common Core State Standards to teachers outside of English language arts who struggle with what literacy in their respective disciplines looks like. Ms. Odlum has personally introduced me to summer institutes, scholarships, professional developments, and fellowships for professional learning through such respected organizations as the National Endowment for the Humanities, New York Urban League, National Council for Teachers of English, and Columbia University’s Teacher’s College.
But what I really admire and respect about Ms. Odlum is her genuine love for her role as an English teacher and for the students entrusted to her care. She cares deeply about their well-being and demonstrates this through culturally-relevant pedagogy and independent reading assignments that she creates for them. Challenging texts like Animal Farm, Chains, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Macbeth, and To Kill a Mockingbird are commonplace in Ms. Odlum’s classes. She holds her students to a very high standard and creates an environment where they are able to self-actualize, both academically and personally. Whenever I have a question about best practices in our profession, I immediately go to Ms. Odlum; whenever I learn of opportunities for teacher-leadership, I immediately think of and recommend Ms. Odlum; whenever I want to run an idea I have about what to teach, I go to Ms. Odlum. She is a pedagogical powerhouse, an enthusiastic educator, a talented teacher, and a curriculum connoisseur.
I know I’m biased when it comes to revering Lakisha as a top-notch English educator because of the love I’ve grown to have for her. However, it’s not just me. I read an article just the other day about the qualities that effective English Language Arts educators possess and the contents therein further solidified my stance. In the article written by Albert P’Rayan titled, “Characteristics of Highly Effective Teachers of English.” He writes,
“Recently I was invited to give a guest lecture on “Characteristics of highly effective teachers of English’.To prepare myself for the lecture I asked my students and fellow teachers to list the qualities of a good teacher of English.Those who were involved in the informal brainstorming sessions had listed a number of characteristics an English language teacher should have.My experience as an English language teacher and teacher trainer also helps me define an effective teacher of English as someone who possesses 5 I’s:
Lakisha Odlum, you possess all of these qualities and then some! Thank you for your commitment to excellence in English Language Arts education. This one’s for you!