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Inspiring Story of the Week – VOICES THAT MATTER by Vanya Erickson

Inspiring Story of the Week


by Vanya Erickson


Tales2Inspire winner logoWhat ever happened to childhood? Vanya’s thrid grade students seemed filled with worries.

“Where do homeless children eat?” “Why do companies destroy rainforests to mine tungsten, just so phones can vibrate?” “Dad insists I go to Stanford when I grow up. What if I don’t get in?”

This became Vanya’s  perfect teachable moment! She would have her students write and perform TED Talks. The next day, she introduced the idea by showing them TED Talks given by children from all walks of life. Some examples she used were those of Malala Yousafzai, who received the Nobel Peace Prize after being shot in the face for daring to go to school; a brilliant twelve-year-old app designer who began inventing at the age of eight; a teenager with Progeria, who eloquently shared the difficulties of living with premature aging. When they finished watching, the kids discussed the powerful messages.

 Ted Talks in Vanya’s Classroom

The next day, Vanya told them, “Today is momentous because you are going to have the opportunity to do something I’ve never done before. You are going to write a TED talk. Grab your notebook and start a list of things you feel strongly about.” There was a lot of chatter as they got to work, ideas pouring onto the page. 

Vanyya worried. Would all of them land on a topic and stick with it? Would they be able to support their idea and sustain a four-minute speech in front of an audience? Was I crazy for asking them to do this? 

As the days passed, they went deeper, falling in love with their ideas. When they needed help, Vanya conferred with them at her little round table, fielding a cauldron of questions: “What if what I want to say will upset my mom?” “Can I write about something positive?” “What do you call it when someone says you can’t do something because you’re a girl?”  

When it was time to practice, Vanya introduced the importance of body language, explaining that showing your palms helps to gain the trust of your audience. They seamlessly incorporated gestures into their speeches. They continued to practice, first with  partners, then small groups, finally writing key thoughts on notecards for their presentations.

The day came when the students were going to perform for their parents and administrators and the classroom was packed. Vanya reminded all her students to dress up – because when we do, it tells the world we’re doing something important. How important was this day? I wager a game changer for many!



Voices That Matter is now published in

Tales2Inspire ~ The Opal Collection

Tales2Inspire ~ The Opal CollectionBUY HERE


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