Michael Kellen is the AP/Cambridge Literature teacher and ELA department chair at Lake Buena Vista High School. He was designated a High Impact Teacher by the state of Florida in 2016 and was asked to write a piece for the New York Times Learning Network in 2018.
What brought you to your school?
I was part of the opening staff of Wekiva High School in 2007 and spent all of my time in OCPS there until we opened here at LBV.
What do you love most about your school?
I love the diversity of our student body at Lake Buena Vista. I can walk across campus from the parking lot to my classroom and hear English, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and Creole on just a five-minute walk.
What is your motivation?
It’s always been about helping students get to wherever they want to go in life, while at the same time hopefully inspiring them to become a lifelong reader. I am particularly motivated to help first-generation students get into college and help students understand that process who may not have family members that know that system.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The relationships you build with students. When students doubt their abilities and then through the year, you get to watch them grow and accomplish things they were unsure they could actually do. It’s rewarding to see a student as they enter ninth-grade and watch them change and develop until their graduation.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I like to read and spend time with my family. With younger children, it’s a lot of driving them to their practices, attending games, etc.
Who was your favorite teacher when you were in school? Why?
For me, it wasn’t a teacher I had in a class but my middle school head football coach, Tom Grant. He was a storyteller at water breaks, and through his stories (and scoldings) I learned a considerable amount about accountability to others and to not make excuses.
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Why?
I left high school wanting to coach football, which I did for a few years, but in most respects, that meant really just being a teacher. I think because I loved being in athletics and I knew the impact that those coaches and teammates had on me, I wanted to kind of do the same.
What is your favorite children’s book and why?
It’s not really from my childhood but BJ Novak’s “The Book With No Pictures” is really funny and meta. It’s impossible to read that book with my children and not have both of us laughing.
What are your hobbies?
Reading is really the only thing I would consider a hobby.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
The ability to fly would probably be my choice. I would save a lot on gas and avoid the traffic.
If you could only listen to three bands or artists for the rest of your life, what would they be and why?
Maybe the hardest question for me, but I would have to choose based on longevity of the artist. So, Bob Dylan for his 60 years of music and lyrics, Phish for their extensive live show catalog that would take years to get through, and third I’m going to cheat and say Slayer (because I need something heavy) and/or Taylor Swift (so my family can stand to be in the car with me and may be the only pop music I like).
What was your go-to lunch as an elementary student? Any favorite snacks or special treats you remember?
I was a school-lunch kid so in my day it was all about the rectangular piece of pizza with the cubed pepperoni and whatever they had for dessert.
What is your favorite holiday?
Halloween is my favorite holiday, because I enjoy horror and scary things typically.
Who was your best friend when you were in school and why? Are you still in touch?
My best friend, starting around sixth grade was Scott, and we are still in touch. He had lived in our town previously, but I hadn’t known him. He moved back from California and lived in my neighborhood.
What were your extracurricular activities as a student? Did you win any accolades or honors?
In high school, I played football and was on the weightlifting team. I was my school’s Wendy’s High School Heisman representative and its FCA Challenger Award recipient. I competed at the state championships for two years in weightlifting.