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The Satisfaction of Influence Felt

“The influence you exert is through your own life, and what you’ve become yourself.”   — Eleanor Roosevelt

Last Thursday evening I attended the Bravo Awards, an annual event celebrating extraordinary Chesterfield alumni.  I am proud to have been a part of developing this fund raiser, and continue to be influenced by the truly extraordinary individuals it honors – alumni of Chesterfield County Schools that not only have achieved amazing things in their careers, but also use their influence to better the communities in which they live.  This year in particular I looked forward to the event with great anticipation as one recipient was a former fullback for the Green Bay Packers, William Henderson.  My husband and I awkwardly approached him for an autograph and a picture after the event – and he was very willing to do so as we proclaimed we were stockholders of the Team (as he responded – his boss).  Secretly, it was great fun to think of how we would make our fellow Packer fans jealous.

It isn’t the memory of meeting William Henderson that makes my heart full, though.  It is the other reason I was so looking forward to the event:  a former student of mine also received an award that evening.  I taught Kellee Santiago as a 4th grader.  Then she was a demure young lady — quietly creative.  Today Kellee is a pioneer of the video game industry, co-founder of thatgamecompany (www.thatgamecompany.com – check it out).  Her company aims to make non-violent video games that communicate different emotional experiences and expand communicative possibilities of games.  She has worked with the DOD to develop video games that teach US Army offices cultural sensitivity and negotiation; she was recognized by Gamastura as one of the 20 Breakthrough Developers of the Year, she was named a Fellow of the TED Fellows 2010 program; she was named a Top 10 Innovator to Watch by Variety magazine and was one of the Ten Most Influential Women in Games of the Decade on Kotaku.com.

Kellee has spoken around the work on game design, production and entrepreneurship. She has been awarded for HER influence in her field.   It was the words she spoke upon her receiving her award, however, that had an amazing influence on me – because she spoke of how an innovative mathematics program she was taught in elementary school was influential in helping her make the connection between math and creativity – and started her on the pathway to where she is today.  She did not know I was there, or what it meant to hear that an innovative mathematics program I taught her had made a difference in her life.  I piloted this program; I taught others how to teach it.  I used it for gifted students and for students with learning disabilities.  I believed in its ability to make mathematics meaningful to elementary students – rather than rote memorization of facts and practice of 100 problems.  Unfortunately, parents and other grownups did not feel the same way.  It wasn’t how they had learned; it couldn’t be reinforced with a book.  The program was rescinded within five years. But in that short period of time, it had an influence on a young lady’s life.  I helped to make that happen.

These are the moments we live for, but rarely get to experience or know – the satisfaction of influence felt.

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2 Responses to “The Satisfaction of Influence Felt”

  1. What a gift! Even more so that it was unsolicited and serendipitous that you were there to hear it. Clearly, you still influence me – I’m still following your blog and looking for inspiration from you too. Cheers to you!


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