Phil Kaye

Spoken-word poet Phil Kaye performed and led workshops last week with students and teachers from Williams Middle School.

MOULTRIE, Ga. — It is not every day that someone at the top of his field visits Moultrie, but that is exactly what happened when Williams Middle School hosted spoken-word poet Phil Kaye this past Wednesday to perform and lead workshops with the school’s students and teachers.

“We were so honored and privileged to have Phil Kaye as a performer and guest teacher, not only because he is a published and renowned poet, but because he is an entertaining performer and enthusiastic instructor,” said Betsy Jones, the school’s ELA coach and one of the event’s coordinators.

Colquitt County Schools’ Director of RtI (Response to Intervention) and PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports) programs Tabathia Baldy also helped coordinate Kaye’s visit and echoed those sentiments. “Phil performs in front of thousands of people at a time, so it’s really special to have him working face to face with our students and teachers.”

Kaye’s day in Moultrie started with a performance at the Colquitt County Art Center where he performed a number of his original poems and answered questions from the students and teachers.

“Our students were captivated by his spoken word poetry and storytelling ability,” said Jones. “The teachers who attended the performance raved about the show and the students’ engagement, and several of them continued the experience by showing additional videos of Phil’s performances in their classrooms.”

Following a quick lunch, Kaye led a workshop with students, many of whom are self-described reluctant writers, during which he walked students through a process for overcoming writer’s block and jumpstarting their own creative writing abilities.

“The student workshop was full because extra students were inspired to join after watching Phil on stage, and these students willingly wrote and shared original poetry,” said Jones.

Kaye also walked a classroom full of teachers from Williams, C.A. Gray Junior High School, Colquitt County High School, and Valdosta City Schools through a similar process, demonstrating activities they could use with their own classes to take students from a blank page to a finished product.

“For those teachers who attended the professional development workshop with Phil, I hope they will be able to reignite their own passion for writing and share these lessons of language and stories in their classrooms,” said Jones.

Co-founder of Project Voice, a team of poet-educators who travel to schools around the world performing poetry and leading workshops, Kaye first came to Moultrie two years ago to work with students at the Colquitt County Achievement Center. Jones said she jumped at the chance to bring Kaye to Williams to encourage students to write and combat the isolation so many students feel during this stage in their lives.

“There is power in finding your voice, sharing your story, and engaging with the written and the spoken word,” said Jones. “I hope that the students and teachers share their experiences with the broader community so that we can cultivate a space where students can create and perform their own stories, where they feel heard and validated.”

Baldy agreed. “I know some seeds were planted regarding the power and potential of spoken word, and I look forward to seeing them grow.”

While the activities Kaye used with students can improve their overall writing ability and increase student achievement, Jim Horne, principal of Williams, said this event was bigger than that.

“Education is about more than covering the standards required by the state and the scores our students receive on the end-of-grade tests,” said Horne. “We want to provide rich learning experiences for our students that they will remember long after they leave our system, and the time spent with Phil Kaye definitely fits that description.”

Baldy was quick to praise the school for allowing Kaye to visit.

“I am thankful for the leadership at Williams for allocating the time and space for students and teachers to experience this rare opportunity,” she said.

To learn more about Phil Kaye and Project Voice, visit https://www.projectvoice.co.

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