A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Voices from the Classroom: The ‘what ifs’ are important — and some gifts are more than just a gift

By Amanda Klare
Beechwood Elementary School

A few weeks ago, John Lewis and Partners released one of the most beautiful commercials
I’ve ever seen. As the commercial starts, the now 71-year-old Elton John sits at his childhood piano and starts playing his first iconic hit, “Your Song.” We’re able to go backwards on his musical journey with him to see where it all began with his mother and grandmother giving him his first piano.

At the end of this viral video sensation are the words: Some gifts are more than just a gift.

Maya Gehihoff plays before a Cincinnati Pops Lollipops Concert in February. (Cincinnati Pops photo)

The first time I saw this ad, I was left speechless and in awe of the talent of this rock legend and his back story. It left me wondering to myself What if Sir Elton’s grandmother had not gifted her piano to her grandson? Would the world have been deprived of the talent of one of the greatest singer-songwriters of all time?

Then, naturally, I thought about the relationship aspect of the commercial and about how it goes beyond the gift of the actual piano. It is the belief in one’s child and student that parents and teachers have in children that create and elevate these young souls into “rockstars.” Each kid in this world deserves someonewho will believe in their dreams and will help them achieve their sometimes-lofty goals.

Last year, I had challenged my students to conduct research on a career they’d like to pursue when they got older. As my students began the brainstorming session, some students automatically knew what they wanted to be when they grew up before our initial lesson had even ended, but then there was Maya.

I looked over and saw the incredibly bright and talented Maya just sitting there in her writing space looking completely distressed.

I went over and simply asked her, “Are you stuck?”

She said, “I’ve got two things that I know I would love doing—being a concert violinist and an aerospace engineer; I just don’t know what I want to choose.”

I tried to comfort her by saying, “Well, Maya, the good news is that we both know that you could be successful in pursuing both of these careers…and you’re only ten so you have plenty of time to figure it all out.”

I had seen Maya at her select orchestra’s Christmas concert earlier in the school year where she was the first chair violinist , so I knew her talent for music. Then, as her teacher, I also recognized that Maya had a passion for science, space and Tesla.

Ultimately, in her informational piece, Maya chose to research aerospace engineering.

Along the way, as she conducted research, Maya had told me all about a female engineer she looks up to named Margaret Hamilton who wrote code to help get man on the moon.  As I read over her final draft about aerospace engineering, I loved where she wrote, “…you must be able to try again after failure.  You must be resilient.”

Amanda Klare

I smiled as I read the words over again because, with that attitude, Maya will be successful in any path she chooses in the future.

As the holiday season rolls closer and closer and we begin to become obsessed with finding the best gifts for our little loved ones, I have the perfect gifts in mind that won’t cost a thing: encouragement, love and support. In our roles as teachers and parents, we must foster our children’s hopes, dreams and aspirations, because somewhere in our classrooms and growing up in our homes are the next Elton John and Margaret Hamilton. Don’t forget the name, Maya Gehlhoff.

Some gifts are more than just a gift, and Maya will certainly share her gifts to make this world a better place.

Amanda Klare is a 4th grade National Board Certified Teacher at Beechwood Elementary. She is a 2018-2019 Kentucky Hope Street Group fellow. Amanda was recognized as a 2019 Valvoline Award winner and semi-finalist for the 2019 Kentucky Teacher of the Year. 

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One Comment

  1. Kuriakose Vari says:

    Having the great privilege of being her maternal grandfather,, no one can really understand or appreciate her dilemma better than me. The reason is I too faced the same dilemma as her.

    My parents and school encouraged and nurtured the natural vocal and instrumental talents I had so that I became a versatile orchestra and choir conductor and composer by the time I finished graduation.

    But I also loved greatly school l educational management. Eventually, I chose both but performing music eventually had to take a comparatively back seat. But during my school teaching years and later as the Principal of a distinguished school in the capital of India – Delhi,I personally created and conducted an orchestra and choir along with being a full-time teacher.

    But the crowning musical achievement was the production of Bernstein’s great opera THE WEST SIDE STORY for the Delhi Public. Both Maya’s Mother and her uncle were part of the cast.

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