Teach For America South Carolina 2016
Center Director, LOL STEAM Center
One morning, a black-robed judge walked into a third-grade classroom in Darlington County.
Students couldn’t believe their eyes when a sober figure in full judicial garb stepped to the front of their class.
The day’s subject, the speaker announced, would be “voicing opinions.” The case? “Should monkeys be sent into space?” Half the classroom would argue YES. Half would argue NO.
Presiding over arguments? Judge (for a day) Keiada Holmes, their beloved teacher.
“Education today needs to be culturally relevant,” explained Holmes of the immersive learning exercise. “Our standards at LOL allow us to be creative, and we’re seeing that’s what works to reach our kids.”
Holmes’s creative approach, pioneered in her Teach For America South Carolina (TFASC) service from 2016-2018 and in her previous classrooms, explains why the LOL (Living Out Loud) STEAM Center she now directs has a Readers Theatre. When a student gets to read, she or he ascends to a stage, then commands the room in a speaker’s voice. Readers – and reading – feel special.
Holmes recently jumped into action when she saw kids passively watching TikTok videos. She developed a Computer Camp that included video game design, coding, and enjoying a game truck. She created a Math and Literacy Camp that targeted state standards and issues. Her Engineering Camp/LEGO Camp gave students an understanding of engineering processes, and an ARTS Alive Camp brought 50 students together to raucously act, sing, dance, and play in a musical, “Shrek Jr.” In a few short months, Holmes’s students saw all aspects of STEAM learning – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math.
Holmes easily might have been a very different person.
“My mom was in education for 31 years,” she said. “I saw her put in long hours and late nights, and I declared that when I grew up, I would never teach.”
But near college graduation, with a communications degree from Winston-Salem State University, a job fair kindled Holmes’s curiosity about Teach For America (TFA).
“When I reached out,” she said, “they welcomed me even without the traditional background of teaching. TFA was willing to cultivate me to be the person I wanted to be. It made such a difference in my life, in my confidence.”
Holmes sharpened her skills and developed her education philosophy in work with the Darlington County School District through TFASC. She taught fifth grade, Girl Scouts, Drama Club, and cheering at Spaulding Elementary School while launching small nonprofits to support her community at the same time.
Her largest endeavor to date, LOL STEAM Center, allows her to put a fuller focus on education for children in Hartsville, South Carolina where she grew up.
The program trains young minds, but something happens to young hearts too.
“We strongly believe in a holistic approach to developing student achievement,” Holmes said. “Students must feel loved, valued, and respected before learning takes place. That’s especially true in some of our communities in South Carolina.”
She explained, “A lot of children in today’s classrooms don’t come from traditional homes with traditional opportunities. Our Living Out Loud philosophy is If life doesn’t give you a lane, you create one.”
“Those of us with TFASC backgrounds can tell you that the opportunity to mold young minds for kids that don’t follow a traditional path is something like our teaching careers – those didn’t follow a traditional path either.”
“That’s what it takes in some classrooms now, and I’m glad I was ready,” concluded Holmes. “There’s nothing I’ve experienced in LOL STEAM Center that TFASC didn’t prepare me for.”