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Award-winning poet inspires DC students to use their words to change the world

Award-winning poet Gayle Danley encourages students to express themselves through poetry.

WASHINGTON — In the last year, this country has been faced with a global pandemic, a presidential election riddled with unkindness, and social and racial unrest. At times, it’s been difficult to express the sadness, the joy, the frustration, or the anger people might be feeling, especially for children. 

That's why teachers at Phoebe Hearst Elementary School have added a poetry exercise to the curriculum, in hopes students will find new and creative ways to share their thoughts.

Often, they’re uttered without much thought. They can rhyme, hurt, heal, and make one feel, because ultimately, Gayle Danley said, “Words still matter.”

Danley is an award-winning poet. She is sharing her gifts with her newest pupils. 

“If they can feel a fourth of the glee that poetry brought to my life when I was a little person, just a little bit of that, I want them to feel excited when it’s time to write a poem,” Danley said.

Credit: WUSA9
Gayle Danley, award-winning poet.

A safe space was created virtually for third-grade students at Phoebe Hearst Elementary School. They spent a moment blending words and phrases to express themselves, like Eli. 

“I am good, I am powerful, I am brave, I am smart and you’re my fav. I know speech and it all counts with what I believe, today and tomorrow,” Eli said.

His poem was an authentic expression. Simple, yet powerful. 

Katie Dilley, one of their teachers, hoped for this moment. 

“I want to be able to give them the opportunity to be able to express what they’ve been feeling in this ginormous year that they’ve really experienced,” Dilley said.

As the students crafted their poems -- some long, some short -- Danley encouraged their creative process. 

It brings this quote from Paul Engle to mind.

“Poetry is ordinary language raised to the Nth power. Poetry is boned with ideas, nerved and blooded with emotions, all held together by the delicate, tough skin of words.”

If you have something you'd like to share an uplifting moment, email us at GetUplifted@wusa9.com or contact Allison Seymour on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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