Keith Adams is a social studies resource teacher at John F. Kennedy High School, Silver Spring, and founder of CKA SAVE Project, a nonprofit dedicated to assisting student athletes lead successful academic and professional careers. He was interviewed Friday at Kennedy.
You are a teacher at Kennedy and the founder of a nonprofit that benefits student athletes. Do you consider yourself a teacher first or a coach?
I’m always a teacher first. I’m a teacher coach: a teacher in the classroom and a teacher in the gym. You talk a lot about coaching while teaching. The worlds are intertwined. I’ve been teaching 19 years in Montgomery County; I was hired May 1995.
I started as a social studies teacher at Benjamin Banneker Middle School [Silver Spring]. I got to teach at my old middle school, then I went to Paint Branch [High School] where I graduated from and played varsity basketball for four years. So for my first five years who better to teach me how to be a teacher than those who taught me?
I was also assistant basketball coach at Paint Branch. Then I went to Wootton [High School] to be head basketball coach and social studies teacher. We did well at Wootton. I moved to Springbrook [High School] and left coaching to coach at Hood College and then I came to Kennedy. I stayed at Hood coaching for eight years.
So tell me about the CKA SAVE Project. What does that stand for?
Coach Keith Adams Student Athletes Valuing Education Project.
When I was in high school all of us on the team were very close to Coach [Hank] Galotta. One day he went on a rant about coaches as role models. Coaches really are role models and that really stayed with me. I said, “Coach, one day when I get the means I’m going to get this group together and we’re going to make a difference.”
When I was coaching at Hood [College] I saw kids just like me, kids who needed a direction, who needed attention. So I decided to start a nonprofit. I called on my former players. One was in business and he helped me set up a corporation, another who was a lawyer helped with the legal part. Several helped with seed money. Slowly it built up and in April 2009 we became a 501(c)(3). Our mission is simply to assist students; the primary focus is student athletes, and the people who work with them. This is the first year we are offering scholarships, one to a male and one to a female athlete.
How do you assist students?
We teach them time-management skills, organizational skills and the ability to self-advocate. For teachers we teach them about the athletic mindset and how to use it to expect higher levels of communication, higher levels of collaboration and higher levels of accountability.
When people are given a task and not given the means to do that task they won’t do it well, so we do a summer AP class to prepare students for AP classes. Their likelihood of success greatly increases — like basketball, you get better with practice.
We also have a summer camp to prepare students for the responsibilities of high school. We also take them on college visits to get them in the mindset of going to college.
Is there anything else you would like readers to know?
We are having an academic all-star basketball game here at Kennedy March 17. It is seniors playing and they have to have a 2.5 grade point average. The cost is $10 and all the money goes to academic programs here at Kennedy High School.
“Voices in Education” is a twice-monthly feature that highlights the men and women who are involved with the education of Montgomery County’s children. To suggest someone you would like to see featured email Peggy McEwan at firstname.lastname@example.org.