When Ferial Pearson first attended the Freedom Writers Institute (FWI) in the summer of 2010, it was immediately clear what an incredible teacher she was. Her passion for education and her students came out every time she spoke about her job. Some say that teaching is not a career, but a calling. We believe that this amazing woman has definitely found her calling in the classroom.
The same year Pearson attended the FWI, she was awarded with the National Education Association Award while at Omaha South High School in Nebraska. Since then, Pearson has continued to make a difference in the lives of her students. She worked prominently in her school’s Gay Straight Alliance (GSA), giving students who felt marginalized a chance to be heard. As a result, of her work with LGBT+ students, Pearson was named the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network’s Educator of the Year. In her acceptance speech, she discussed how a young man came to her school because of the GSA and found acceptance after years of suffering greatly from depression.
Pearson’s accomplishments are continuing to mount this year. Earlier this year, she had the honor of attending an event with the Secretary of the United States Department of Education, Arne Duncan. Pearson spoke to influential members of educational society about how to create safe spaces in classrooms. You can read about how she taught her students the importance of small acts of kindness in her blog post that appeared on the front page of the US Department of Education’s website.
If that wasn’t enough, Pearson is also one of 2016’s recipients of The Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Award. She was nominated by a young woman who has helped her receive a previous accolade as well.
We are honored to acknowledge such an impactful Freedom Writer Teacher. She is someone who witnessed strength in the women around her: her grandmother and mother, teachers, and friends. She has emulated their intelligence and talents to become the motivating force in her students’ and children’s lives.