Students start the school year by getting new schools supplies. This preparation is difficult for students who cannot afford it. Angela Keys starts the year by stocking up on school supplies that she can give away to the students who need them.
As Jennings Junior High School students go through the year, Keys asks about their performance in other classes. She is not trying to bug them.
“The more they see me in their lives, the more they go above and beyond what’s expected of them because they know they matter to me,” Keys said.
Keys knows that her involvement has a limit. Her wish is to see that every student gets as much parental involvement as possible.
Keys said that if a student is in basketball practice, that student should be cheered on from the stands. If there are final projects, help should be available at home.
But Keys is ready to keep buying school supplies and talking to her students for as long as she’s teaching.
A teacher is like a parent, Keys said.
Keys was born in St. Louis and grew up attending catholic school in Florissant, Mo. She attended catholic school for every year of her primary education. She attended St. Thomas Aquinas Mercy High School, which has since merged with Trinity High School.
Keys went to college at Southern University in Baton Rouge. She got a bachelor’s degree in mass communication and master’s in mass communication with an emphasis in broadcast.
At Southern University, she interned for a radio station then went on to work at the local CBS channel 4 station in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She also spent some time working in a gospel radio station.
Keys returned to Florissant in 2001, and she found her calling.
Keys was looking for a school for her daughters and at the same time, decided that she wanted a change from her job as project manager at Worldwide Technologies.
“I didn’t feel fulfilled with the work I was doing,” Keys said. “I didn’t get to talk to anybody. I just sat in a cubicle all day.”
Keys found a job teaching sixth, seventh and eighth grade every subject except religion at Transfiguration catholic school in Florissant, which has since closed.
At Transfiguration, she found the fulfillment she sought.
“When I came home at the end of the day I felt joy,” Keys said. “I was proud because I had spent the day teaching a kid how to read, and I had accomplished something meaningful.”
Keys had a new direction for her life.
After her first year of teaching, Keys enrolled at Lindenwood University in St. Charles and got her teaching certificate.
She found a job at Jennings Junior High teaching seventh- and eighth-grade language arts. She has taught there for the past 14 years.
Keys thought of middle school as the perfect teaching environment. Middle school is a place where students still need personal guidance along with their education, Keys said.
“Middle school students are going through puberty. They don’t feel like adults. They don’t feel like children,” Keys said. “They’re making a difficult transition from being elementary school kids to high school students, and I feel like I can help them through it.”
Keys’ feels like her experience as a mother helped her prepare for the responsibilities that she takes on as a middle school teacher.
Keys and her husband, Darryll, have two daughters, Kayla, 23 and Kristen, 16. The eldest is a student in the pharmaceutical school at Xavier University in Cincinnati. The younger is a junior at Westminster Christian Academy who has played on the varsity basketball team since her freshman year and plays Amateur Athletic Union basketball.
Keys helped with schoolwork when she could and makes sure she drives out and sees Kristen’s game as often as she can.
Teachers have the same responsibility to their students, Keys said. Though they can’t attend to their students in the same way, they should do their best to extend their attention to their students.
Students who have their parents in their lives have more success, Keys said. Students don’t always have their parents in their lives as much as they need, and some don’t have their parents in their lives at all.
Keys uses the first two weeks of school talk to each of her students and tries to know everything about them. She firmly believes bonding activities are crucial to her duty as a teacher. As school progresses, she doesn’t forget any of them.
“When I build relationships with my students, they go above and beyond my expectations,” Keys said. “They know I care, so they care.”
She wants her students to learn and many of her students come back to her for the lessons she gives.
She gets calls from her former students who are now in college looking for a copy of her guide to writing a thesis that she gave them in middle school.
Although Keys acts like a caring mother, she also makes sure her students are challenged. Keys also pushes her students to take on the responsibility of giving back to their community.
Outside of school, Angela Keys does community service with her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, and she is active in her church, Greater Mount Carmel Baptist church.
Keys challenges her students to take on similar roles.
“When they stand above and help others up, they see how far they’ve come,” Keys said. “And when they see how far they’ve come, they see how much they’ve learned.”