Kitty Head remembers asking one of her adult education students years ago what his plans were for Thanksgiving. The man had been homeless and said he didn’t have any friends or family to spend time with during the holiday.

Head invited the man to spend time with her family.

She became his advocate, helping set him up with social services in his tiny apartment and, after three years in the program, he earned a GED.

Head has worked in adult education helping prepare students for the GED for 29 years. She recently won Outstanding Teacher of the Year from the Commission on Adult Basic Education.

WFPL asked Head about her experiences teaching adult students.

What makes the GED student a unique student to teach?

“They have so many life experiences that are so wonderful to share with them. So instead of being a teacher at a high school or an elementary school where I’m in charge of disciplining, which is a huge part of it, I think…to be able to come into a classroom and greet the students who are adults—who I might know this person’s mom is going through cancer, and this person is having a hard time with her son. A lot of them are experiences that I have been through. And being able to be a part of that is just wonderful.”

What’s one of the challenges to seeing a student through the GED program?

“I keep looking for new ways to help them understand that this is their education. They’re not working for a grade from me. They’re the ones that are going to be on their own to take the test. They’re the ones who are going to need to do the things they need to do, and I am there to help them. And a lot of the young ones especially are so used to having somebody tell them what to do every step of the way that to have them embrace the goal that they want is a really hard concept.”

What do you do that’s unique and why was the award granted to you?

“I love what I do. And I think the students know I love what I do. So, everything that I do, every plan that I make, every new idea I come up with, it just invigorates me and I’m not really sure why.”