Kimberly LittleJohn Hammaker ’15, Palm Beach North Chamber of Commerce Teacher of the Year for 2019, hosts her classes with the Socratic-style exchange she enjoyed as a student in PBA’s Supper Honors Program. Teaching at The Conservatory School in North Palm Beach, Florida, she stimulates students to discuss what they’ve learned from their reading or from current events. Her students open up, freely but respectfully expressing their opinions, sometimes about controversial subjects.
“It’s a judgment-free zone; we all have our own opinions, so we don’t really get mad at each other,” explained one student. The result, said Hammaker, is a truly interactive forum for “serious conversations about the world.”
She recalled when those conversations around her class table included the tragic shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. “I’ve never been more thankful for this table and for this community than in light of times like that,” she said.
In their discussion about Parkland and gun control controversy, Hammaker’s students asked, “Why can’t people three or four times our age talk to each other respectfully?” Responding to such tough questions, their teacher explained how she sees her students as future leaders: “Hopefully you will be the eloquent, the respectful, the compassionate ones.”
Hammaker teaches eighth-graders, in subjects including English, world history and a project-based class studying a different topic each semester.
She graduated summa cum laude from PBA, where she “consistently had a light in her eye and a big smile on her face,” recalled Dr. Chelly Templeton, dean of the School of Education and Behavioral Studies. “Kimberly was always ready to jump in and create new ways to help children achieve.”
One of her students at the Conservatory School described Hammaker this way: “I think the difference between her and other teachers, not here, but just teachers in general, is that she makes sure you do not fail. She does not give up on you. She always makes sure you’re doing your best.”