5 ways Maya Angelou influenced education

Notable author, poet and educator left a beautiful mark on all those interested in becoming lifelong learners

maya-angelouWhen I heard about Maya Angelou’s passing today, I was getting a bad cavity filled—a dispassionate process framing an emotional response I wasn’t quite prepared for.

As an English major, I have taken a path in my life as a journalist, editor, and (hopefully) one-day novelist. My path has been spurred by collections of books and poems—the passions of life made tangible in structures and syntax, and the brave and humble authors who have made these experiences available to me.

One of my favorite books I read in my high school AP English class was I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and not because I can necessarily relate to the experiences outlined in a book known to be one of Angelou’s autobiographies, but because of the foreign and vibrant world it exposed—a cultural and literary expedition brought about through a strong female protagonist who, believe it or not, wasn’t in love with a half-naked vampire.

And, like others who read a novel and can make heartfelt connections to completely foreign cultures, experiences, and characters, I am not naïve enough to believe Angelou’s works affected only me.

Angelou touched probably more lives than we’ll ever know, but I’d like to think she especially touched the lives of educators and students, who not only read her works, but were inspired by her desire to make known issues of race, identity, and literacy. Such an education is likely more valuable than the rote memorization of SAT words, simply because it’s the understanding of other cultures, other times, and other peoples…it’s an education in what makes us human.

In this article, I’d like to describe just a few ways Maya Angelou has influenced education.

(Next page: 5 ways Maya Angelou has touched educators and students)

Meris Stansbury

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