Kim Haywood Jr. serves as the science teacher for middle school and high school students at Lovejoy Technology Academy, a public school in Lovejoy, Illinois. One of his goals is to show students that there are opportunities out there in the real world. “My real goal is working with high school students to put those opportunities in front of them,” he said, “and let them know the different avenues that they have for career choices.”
He also teaches a career and life skills class to seniors, where he gets a chance to teach students about the work world. They talk about resume writing, interviewing skills, and how to dress for interviews. “These are definitely skills the kids can take with them,” he said, “and go into different arenas and use throughout life.”
Haywood has a certain thought process when it comes to helping create a positive environment for students.
“What I mean by that is creating an environment where every kid feels comfortable and safe to come to school to really learn and reach their full potential,” he said, “and being comfortable enough to ask the teachers, administration or whoever for help so they can be met on the level where they really need to be met at.”
Haywood also stresses the importance of taking risks in life and being persistent. “If it doesn’t work once or twice, don’t get down,” he said. “Keep going and overcome it.”
Education was not Haywood’s first career path. Once he graduated from East St. Louis Senior High School in 2000, he said, “I wanted to go into the financial industry.” He pursued a finance major at Alabama A&M University and interned for a few summers in the field at A.G. Edwards in St. Louis (which was later acquired by Wachovia Securities, which in turn was acquired by Wells Fargo Advisors).
“So I got to do that for three summers and really get a chance to get an in-depth look at what the financial industry entailed,” he said. “It let me know what I didn’t want to do in life.”
Though it was a negative experience, it was an important one and a process he stresses to students.
“It’s very important that kids get the chance to do internships,” Haywood said. “It definitely gives you that hands-on experience. You really get to see a day-in, day-out look of where you really see yourself or where you think you want to be.”
After these experiences, Haywood went on to graduate from Southern Illinois University Carbondale with a dual degree in Agriculture Education and Hospitality & Tourism and land a job as a program growth and development advisor for the Illinois State Board of Education. From there, he found his way back to the classroom as a teacher.
“Seeing students that came from the same neighborhoods I came from, seeing them overcome obstacles and reaching their goals, that’s what really drives me,” he said. “That’s where that passion comes from.”
With all of his experience in the classroom, Haywood seeks to work on the administrative level in the future.
“Having had some experience with the Illinois State Board of Education on the administration side, ultimately once I got into the classroom my goal was to complete 10 years within a classroom,” he said. “So then I really got that teaching experience and understood what it takes to be a good teacher.” Upon completing the goal of spending 10 years in a classroom, Haywood plans to “begin to move into an administration role and prepare myself for that aspect.”
He is looking forward to returning to the Salute gala as an awardee, having attended the last few years.
“I’m humbled for this opportunity to even be nominated, recognized, and rewarded because I had no clue I was being nominated,” he said. “Thank you to the committee and to everybody for this opportunity and great experience.”