As an Instructional Coach, Kenny Abbott supports the teachers who implement our program. Before joining CollegeSpring, Kenny earned a bachelor’s degree in Communications at Messiah College. He spent the early years of his professional life working in the media industry and, later, as a special education teacher.
Kenny recalls how his understanding of race and learning ability was shaped by being the youngest sibling in an interracial family with two adopted brothers. He says: “My oldest brother was top of his class, a valedictorian, and my parents were treated like they were Parents of the Year. Two or three years later my African-American brother, who has a learning disability and would also have some behavior problems, he wouldn’t get away with stuff that my older brother had done in high school.”
Kenny watched his middle brother learn the alphabet by tracing letters with his finger on sandpaper after a teacher suggested that he try to learn his letters through a sensory approach. This memory drove home the defining role a teacher can have in a person’s life: “That was just one teacher. Look at the impact she had. If he didn’t have that one particular teacher, he might not have learned to read for years.”
We sat down with Kenny to celebrate having him on our team. The conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Tell me about your professional background. How did you come to CollegeSpring?
When I started my professional career, I was in the media industry. But while I was doing that I decided that I was not really feeling the business world any more. I wanted to feel like I was contributing something else to society. I thought back to what I really enjoyed, and something I really enjoyed was teaching and training people.
And so I did a mid-career switch and became a special education teacher. While I was teaching I also got my master’s from Loyola Marymount University. In getting that master’s, my concentration was on teaching with technology. Where does technology fit into education? That’s something that’s really interesting to me.
What special challenges and opportunities do you think our teachers and students face?
You’ll have students that are in foster homes. You’ll have students who maybe didn’t eat breakfast that morning. You’ll have students that have experienced extreme trauma. So that’s something our students are bringing in, which our teachers are having, and the schools are having, to address.
On top of that, we’re also asking, “Hey, let’s work on linear functions because it’s important for the SAT.” And it is. It’s super important. That’s something our teachers and students are definitely experiencing.
What do you wish people knew about the SAT, or about college preparation?
This is an opportunity for students to really demonstrate to colleges, to scholarship programs, “This is what I can do. This is what I’m capable of doing. This is the improvement that I can make.” Not treating it like, “It’s just another test.” Or, “We’re just teaching to the test.” It’s not an obstacle.
What do you like to do when you’re not at CollegeSpring?
I’m definitely a weekend warrior. Meaning that, I’m over thirty years old and play in a couple of competitive flag football leagues. They’re legit leagues with uniforms and stats and refs. When we get to playoff time, sometimes we go back and watch footage from the games over the season, if we took any, to prep for the playoffs. That’s my weekend escape.
I’m also big into reading in my free time. I go back and forth between educational books, classics, and more modern works so that I’m getting a little bit of everything and don’t get stuck in a rut.
Is there anything else you think people should know about you?
I have a small dog. I adore my small dog Finn, who didn’t bark during this [conversation] even though there was a package delivery.