|27 Sep 2023
|United States of America
|2023 Finalists Global Teacher Prize
Having taught for 36 years, Kimberly Bearden has served as a teacher, curriculum director, principal, learner support strategist, and professional development trainer, but the title she holds most dear is simply that of “teacher,” choosing to remain in the classroom throughout her career.
In 2004, her calling and dream to have an exponential effect upon students crystalised with co-founding the Ron Clark Academy (RCA) which opened its doors to its first students in 2007, which has become a highly-acclaimed school and with unique professional development opportunities for educators. A nonprofit, the school received 91% of its funding from visiting educators' registration fees and to date, over 115,000 educators from around the world have come to RCA to observe classrooms and workshops. Kimberly teaches how to incorporate movement and music, how to communicate more effectively, to have high expectations while building a foundation of trust, and her teaching methods empower students.
Currently the cofounder and executive director of the Ron Clark Academy (RCA) she has taught children from varied backgrounds and Kimberly’s dedication sees her answering calls in the middle of the night to help students find safety; even providing shelter in her own home. She also knows what it is to hold the hand of a beloved student just moments after he lost his life to random gun violence, to bear the weight of trying to provide solace to his grieving teachers, friends, and family. The former single mom knows the pain of betrayal and what it is to do much with little, has experienced the joy and challenges that come with adopting three “magnificent sons” from South Africa and what it is to watch her parents suffer and die from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Making learning an adventure her curriculum is delivered in innovative and inspirational ways to students come from varied academic, social, socioeconomic, and emotional development levels, with most coming from historically underserved communities. As a result, they experience tremendous success, earning millions of dollars in academic scholarships after graduating, and continuing to shine as leaders. One hundred percent of her students have gone on to graduate high school, and approximately 91% are enrolled in or have graduated from college while educators participating in RCA’s training opportunities affect the lives of millions of students globally, from Japan to Australia to England to Honduras.
For her outstanding teaching work Kimberly has earned many awards over the years including the Milken Educator Award in 1999 and the Disney Teacher Award in 2000. She was named a Georgia Teacher of the Year Finalist in 2000. In 2012, Kimberly garnered the Making a Difference Award, in 2015, she won the InfluencHER Award, and in 2016, she earned the University of Georgia Outstanding Alumni Award. That same year, she was inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame in Emporia, Kansas.