Meet This Girl Kellen Scanlan


On where she’s from

I am from Moraga, California, right outside of San Francisco. I went to college at USC and majored in Psychology with a minor in Early Childhood Education.

On how she got her start working in education

I always wanted to be a teacher - I have always enjoyed working with kids. I knew that I wanted to become a middle school teacher after working for Planned Parenthood teaching reproductive health in 7th grade classrooms all over the Los Angeles Unified School District. I absolutely fell in love with teaching middle school students and knew that was the age that I wanted to teach.

While I was getting my masters I had worked for the Rossier School of Education at USC in their advancement office, managing donor files and annual giving programs. Before that, I worked for a summer at LBI Entertainment, a talent management company.

On the most exciting part of her job

There is never a dull moment teaching in a middle school - I am constantly learning from my students and I feel like I ride the roller coaster of adolescence with them every day. Their issues become my issues and I have to constantly push myself to find ways to motivate and encourage them. When I see a student connect with a text that we are reading, there is seriously no better feeling. They also make me laugh every single day!

On the most difficult part of her job

The most difficult thing about my job is realizing that you can't change what your students experience outside of school. So many times I have had students tell me about issues that they face outside of school and I want to just take them home with me. Understanding that you can't shield them from life's hardships is a tough pill to swallow. I just have to remember that I have the power to equip them with the skills to handle what comes their way and to empower them with knowledge and an education. Walking that line between being a confidant and a mandated reporter is really challenging, and trying to keep that trust with my students can become difficult as well.

On a day in her life

Most days I wake up at 6 am to get ready for the day. I make breakfast and review the lessons I am set to teach. I get to school around 7:30, sign in, and put the agendas on the board for each period. Students start funneling in at 8 am.

I teach 5 periods per day. First period is my conference, so I do not have a class. Each teacher gets one conference period a day. 2nd period I teach 7th grade Accelerated Honors English. 3rd period I teach 8th grade Accelerated Honors English. 4th period I teach 7th grade Honors English. 5th period I teach 8th grade Honors English and 6th period I teach AVID (an academic elective for students who have the potential to be "A" students but need help with motivation and organizational/study skills.)

On a rule she tries to live by

To always have compassion and empathy. I try to be understanding of everyone's situation and realize that everyone has their own mountains to climb. I’ve learned that you can never compare the mountains you face to someone else’s.

On where she finds inspiration

My students inspire me everyday! They are so resilient and inquisitive.

On how she recharges

I love to travel every chance I get. Even if that means driving down to Palm Springs for a day or exploring a new part of town. Once I get home from a trip I am already planning the next place I want to go. I also have recently gotten into running. I am training to run a half marathon and have really enjoyed that process. Going for a run helps clear my mind and recharge.

On a woman that inspires her

My mom! She is everything I want to be: beautiful, smart, compassionate, resilient, and nurturing. She is so wise and always gives me the best advice. She is loved by everyone and it is inspiring to see how many lives she's touched. She's so strong: from surviving breast cancer, to taking care of my dad through all of his health issues, to running her own non profit -  she has the biggest heart of anyone I know.

On her five year plan

I hope that I am still teaching in a classroom. I don't want to burn out, which is common for teachers within the first five years. I also hope to pursue my PhD at some point, so I’d hope that I am still on that track. I would also love to get my counseling license. It is something I have always been interested in. I would also love to become a principal one day!

On an accomplishment she’s proud of

Getting through student teaching. Iit is really difficult to have someone watch your every move and be in someone else's classroom. I found that experience to be really stressful for me and I am proud that I stuck with it and made it through.

On the three traits she’s most proud to possess

I am organized, positive and empathetic. I also always strive to be understanding and compassionate.

On a recent lesson she’s learned

I’ve recently learned that I should never be embarrassed about who I am. For a while I was embarrassed about some aspects of my life and would choose what to show depending on who I was around. I am proud that I have come into my own and that I am now comfortable owning who I am and sticking to what I believe.

On the best piece of advice she ever received

My dad once told me fear causes hesitation and hesitation causes your worst fears to come true. Hesitation can be your own worst enemy.

On the worst piece of advice she ever received

To not teach because I won't make enough money. Honestly, I still have people tell me that to this day, which I find baffling.

On how she stays motivated

I stay motivated by reading letters that my students have written me and reviewing their past work. I had my most difficult class write poems, which was an incredible experience - the students were so proud of themselves and the work they created. When I am having a bad day, I go back and read those poems and remember how excited those students were when they got their grades back and received positive feedback on their work. Seeing the smiles on their faces and the excitement in their eyes was priceless! For me, that’s the best feeling and it’s why I do what I do.

On the biggest challenge women face today

I think women still struggle to be taken seriously. There have been so many times in my life when I have not been taken seriously because people have written me off as a dumb, blonde, sorority girl. There are also so many unwritten rules for women in the workplace: don't wear anything too revealing because you will look like you're trying to be sexy, but still look attractive or else it'll seem like your not trying hard enough. Don't engage in too much conversation or it'll look like you're being flirty, but don't be too cold or else you'll come off as a bitch. All of the unwritten rules for women in the workplace are difficult to navigate, and I don't see these rules disappearing anytime soon, unfortunately.

Her advice to a girl on her way

Be strong and don't be afraid to go all in.

Also, don’t be afraid to put your needs first. This is something I struggle with daily, but I’m actively working to get better at. You can’t live your life always trying to please others. Women today need to know that it’s okay to make decisions that will benefit them in the long run.

Photographed by Fiona Pestana in Los Angeles, September 2018.

Read More: Meet This Girl, Los Angeles, Education