Michelle King & Nick Kaczmarek at Going Deep Summit

They aren’t entirely polar opposites: two middle school teachers specializing in the social sciences and language arts. And somehow, they just couldn’t connect. After Michelle King left her job at Mt. Lebanon and Kaczmarek emerged from his first three years of education, they joined one another on a grand mission of completely uphauling society…

Two teachers, one vision

And it’s worked so far.

But the two didn’t mix well together at first. What initially brought them together was their shared ideal of traveling towards a “more empathic world.”

King and Kaczmarek are like partners in crime today after they learned the importance of collaboration — and how vital it is to meet a goal. They came to understand that adults aren’t so different from middle schoolers. In a new teaching environment with one another, King and Kaczmarek couldn’t find balance between one another  in their classroom. Michelle King believed she had made the wrong decision jumping from a secure job in a solid school district to the “unknown.” But the story ends and continues happily.

With students relying on their efforts, there was no doubt they needed to rework their partnership. Through their dreams of “bringing people back together,” their introduction of an “empathetic learning experience” for middle schoolers taught them the same lessons, too.

Their mission relies on seeing who we are speaking with and hearing what the person is saying. Both feel these simple facets of conversation are all we need to “build society.” As they see it, that’s what they’re doing and that’s what matters most to build the next generation.

King and Kaczmarek are bringing concepts like “cultural co-literacy” to growing minds. At the impressionable ages of eleven to thirteen, both educators understand that the world is a scary place, and in order to eradicate the fear, everyone deserves a welcoming space where empathetic connections can form. It’s not just about making sense of the world at a young age, but realizing that we as humans have four levels of listening. King and Kaczmarek feel that while it may take work to rise above the first tier, all it takes is interaction, dialogues, and exercises. The pair have developed activities for their students in order to achieve this goal. Utilizing these can rework the system of hate, and the partners in crime have already started shaping young minds with this process.

Daphne Kass