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Eighth-grade blogger becomes keynote speaker


A lot of middle school students struggled with remote learning during the pandemic. But only Carl Sandburg eighth-grader Kennedy Gallagher wrote a blog about it.

That was last fall. In March, Kennedy became the only student to serve as the keynote speaker at an Association of Illinois Middle-Grade Schools (AIMS) conference. She spoke to 90 middle school teachers from across the state at the AIMS Exploratory Summit in Glen Ellyn on March 3.

“She did an amazing job and delivered her message with confidence,” said Tracy Fuentes, a Carl Sandburg teacher and president of AIMS.

The Carl Sandburg staff also had an opportunity to present at the AIMS Summit. Besides Fuentes, CSMS teachers presenting included Matthew Brown, Carol Rabaja and Gena Kvist. They were able to talk about some of the amazing things being done at Carl Sandburg on a daily basis.  Topics ranged from creating student leaders, best practices related to inclusion, and looking at data to best support the needs of multilingual learners.

“It was very exciting for the CSMS staff to showcase their knowledge and experience with other educators from across the state,” said Carl Sandburg Principal Mark Pilut. “And, of course, Kennedy was amazing. We’re all very proud of her.”

Kennedy wrote her blog last fall with the help of her mom and language arts teacher Kate Rogers. It told the story of how COVID-19 impacted her first two years of middle school. She described her experience during the pandemic in her opening line: “It feels as if the world is covered with acid.”

In the blog she described how Tik Tok’s popularity skyrocketed during the pandemic to the point it was “replacing social interactions amongst my peers” and pointed out that her first middle school dance didn’t occur until she was in eighth-grade.

“In a way, COVID was a curse and deprived us from a true middle school experience,” she wrote.

Just as the blog gave her an opportunity to practice her writing skills, the conference gave her a chance to focus on her speaking skills. From all accounts, she excelled in both.

Kennedy’s  609-word blog is published here on the AIMS website.

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