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Q&A with Don Kile

Recipient of Top 100 Visionaries in Education, presented by Global Forum of Education and Learning

“I have always seen life personally; my interest or sympathy or indignation is not aroused by an abstract cause but by the plight of a single person… Out of my response to an individual develops an awareness of a problem to a community, then to the country, then to the world.”

Eleanor Roosevelt spoke those words, and Don Kile’s grandmother drilled them into him as a young boy while he was growing up in Amarillo, Texas. Kile’s grandmother impressed upon him many inspirations originating with Eleanor Roosevelt.

Maybe it was good training. Kile, an Arcadia resident who is currently serving his 25th year as the director of a private foundation dedicated to enhancing academic advancement rates in public education, is being recognized as one of the Top 100 Visionaries in Education from the Global Forum on Education and Learning in a ceremony in Las Vegas, Nevada on April 23, 2021. He will speak on the topic of building stronger communities through school activities and athletics.

Kile is a devoted advocate of youth athletics, serving on several boards and committees promoting primary and secondary education, amateur athletics, global citizenship, and the innovation and development of a greater social affinity. He sat down with us for this Q&A.

Where did you get your first inspiration on the value and importance of public education?

My parents were both career classroom teachers. My father logged 47 years as a teacher and a coach. My mother had a 25-year career in primary classrooms, teaching language and communication arts. Growing up, all of our family’s closest friends were centered around school, and my parent’s friends were mostly teachers, athletes… or nurses.

And, athletics?

As a student, being an athlete was the core of my existence, and of my peers. Letter jackets. Fight songs. Rivalries. If you were not on the team, you had an on-campus job supporting the activities in some way. Everyone in the school and community got involved.

I prefer the term “co-curricular activities” rather than “extracurricular activities” when discussing interscholastic sports, performing arts, and scientific and academic competitions. These programs support schools’ academic missions because they are inherently educational and are a significant component of a healthy, comprehensive schooling system.

My advocacy for co-curricular activities is firmly based on the belief that these programs promote citizenship, fair play, fair dealing, and sportsmanship. All school-sponsored activities instill a sense of pride in self, school, and community, and result in peer-to-peer teaching and learning of lifelong lessons and skills of teamwork, self-discipline, and physical and emotional development.

What is the connection between a healthy high school campus and a thriving community?

The local high school should be treated as the undisputed cornerstone of a successful community. In a strong and vibrant community, there is a genuine desire to see the local high school team and players do well, and high participation from the community towards its own development. Win or lose, the sense of community pride is an undeniable summary of the lessons learned by and through high school activities.

What does the Top 100 Visionaries award mean to you?

It’s kind of heavy and I am humbled. I do not think I really belong in the company of the other recipients. I am just a small-town guy who grew up in a Boy’s Club environment, with a lot of support from a family and friends who all understood that it really does take a village, which is stronger when students have an opportunity to participate and thrive with support from the community. Making the case for returning to the fundamental mission of public schools is not particularly visionary, but I am pleased to use this honor to advocate for the cause… it’s a good cause. I wish my parents were still alive to join me. That would be cool.

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