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Changing Up the Books: Denise King

She teaches Sunday School and summer school. She’s working toward a Master’s in Leadership at Georgia State and has been honored with a Barnes & Noble’s Teacher Appreciation Award. Now, Denise King has another accolade to her name: NMSI’s Teacher of the Month.
Denise teaches 11th grade American Literature and AP Language & Composition at Maynard Jackson High School in Atlanta. Students, peers and administrators know her best for her infectious smile and genuine joy.
“She’s always happy and always has a positive attitude,” said Yusef King, Maynard Jackson’s AP Coordinator. “The students love her.”
“A happy teacher makes happy students,” Denise says of her personal teaching philosophy.
When it comes to creating a positive classroom experience, Denise was encouraged by her own high school teachers, who extended grace in ways that inspired her to abandon a potential accounting career to become a teacher. And not just any teacher – the best teacher her students could possibly expect.
“I think every student deserves the very best that I can give them as a teacher,” Denise said. “I hope in turn, that me giving them my best, they will respond in kind. They usually do.”
Denise is so committed to her “student babies” that she moved across the street from the school to be more available to them.
“I love those babies,” she said. “I actually wanted to be more involved in some of their activities.”
Denise said attending her students’ sports games and other activities is a critical way to build trust with them.
“It means more to them than it does to me spending that two, three hours sitting outside. They trust me more. And they’re more receptive to what I have to give to them because – and I’m not trying to be prideful or toot my own horn – I know I have something of value for them, which is an education.”
She recognizes the monumental value of the education she and fellow teachers are delivering.
“Some of my students, their only way out of generational poverty will be through an education. A free education. And so, since I have something very valuable for them, and we live in a world where students are not very trusting of adults, then if I can do whatever it takes to gain their trust, then they’ll listen to me and then I can help them.”
Yusef said Denise’s advocacy for AP is another way she helps and connects with students.
“She was selective, but at the same time, she made sure to choose students that have potential, from a diverse background, that she thinks would succeed, that probably would not have the opportunity otherwise,” Yusef said. “It’s a very diverse environment, so she does differentiate in the class where all levels could succeed academically and provide resources where economically they can succeed as well – many times either through us or her own money – so everybody’s on the same playing field.”
Denise’s work has yielded success for many students, including Theresa Roth’s daughter, Emery.
“What she did for my daughter was really incredible,” Roth said. “Emery came into AP Lang sophomore year feeling a little beaten down, not very confident all of a sudden in her skills and in her abilities and in language, which was really disheartening. When she connected with Ms. King, she was happy again. Ms. King made my kid happy to be in English class, and happy to be at school. Em would say, ‘I didn't know what I was carrying until it was gone, and until I had Ms. King. I'm excited about English again and just school in general.’"

Emery’s renewed passion inspired her to write an essay nominating Denise for a local Barnes & Noble Teacher Appreciation Award – which Denise won. Denise also took home Maynard Jackson’s 2018 Excellence in Teaching Award.
Denise King

Barnes and Noble surprised Ms. King at Maynard Jackson with their store’s Teacher Appreciation Award based on Emery’s nomination essay. Pictured L-R: Stephanie Johnson, Principal, Layne Wiggins, B&N Edgewood Store Manager, Emery Roth, Denise King, Keisha Pooler, Instructional Coach, Faya Paul, Assistant Principal, Adam Danser, Assistant Principal.

NMSI and fellow teachers have been fortunate enough to have Denise at 10 (yes, 10!) Summer Institutes.
“I get a chance in the trainings to be a student once again and to experience what my students experience,” she said. “NMSI has a wealth of resources on how to scaffold learning for students, particularly for students who Advanced Placement is not easily accessible to.”
In addition to earning NMSI’s Teacher of the Month aware, Denise will join the nonprofit in the fall as a consultant for student-focused Saturday Study Sessions.
“I hope that my students gain the skills necessary to think critically about the world around them and about how to solve some of the problems that exist in their world in order to help make the world become a better place,” she said.
Know a great teacher who deserves recognition? Email marketing@nms.org to tell us why you think they’d be a great NMSI Teacher of the Month.
They Said
"When you walk into Ms. King’s class, the average person will never know who is in what kind of situation, because everything is equitable in the classroom.” -Yusef King, Maynard H. Jackson High School AP Coordinator

“She changes up the books. She’s always looking for something different. She’s looking for literature that’s going to connect with boy readers or girl readers or readers who maybe need something about sports or readers who are reluctant or readers who are really excited about a particular kind of character. You can have a discussion with Ms. King about all kinds of books. She can find a book for any kid.” -Theresa Roth, parent

“What is more important to me than test scores are giving students an opportunity to know what it's like to be taught in a college-level course, and to push them beyond what they believe they can do. I want all of my students to earn a 3 or higher on the AP exam.  However, if I can get a student who would earn a 1 on the exam, work hard through the year and earn a 2 on the exam, then I would feel like I have some level of great success in my teaching. Therefore, one way I ensure that I make learning accessible to all is by individualizing learning for my students while keeping requirements the same for all.” -Denise King, NMSI Teacher of the Month