Inspirational Teacher Ferial Pearson

A Story by Ischel Gonzalez Kelso
Ferial is not just a teacher. Her teachings go beyond the classroom. I was her student
eight years ago. She advised my homeroom advisor and sponsored two clubs: Gay-Straight
Alliance and a social justice league. Ferial’s title was teacher, yes, but her title is not entirely
accurate. “Teachers” go home at the end of the workday. “Teachers” get some days off. But
Ferial is her work. Her work as an educator does not stop at a time of day, completion of lesson
plans, or finished grading tasks for the day. She is always Ferial the soldier for love, acceptance,
equality, and education and I have witnessed that she never takes a day off.
My knowledge of Ferial starts with her position as a young English teacher at Omaha
South High School. She was the students’ favorite. Before I had started high school, she had
expanded the Gay-Straight Alliance at South. Not because it was easy by any means, but
because a handful of students needed a safe space. They needed more education and support.
Ferial went against many higher-ups and put herself in difficult situations - all for her students.
Despite those obstacles, she continued to fight for her students to have what they needed to
survive in the classroom, at home, and in life. She won that fight and now our GSA has over 300
members. She also was a faculty sponsor of our junior social justice league. Here, students from
participating schools throughout Omaha read books such as Kindred and discussed the issues
that all different kinds of people face and what we could do to create better lives for everyone.
Ferial was a founder of this club and it was amazing to watch it blossom.
Fast-forward a few years. Ferial had taken a job in a different part of town. I saw so
much change made there. She stood up for rights of students who were being ostracized by
both students and administration. She also created an organization called Secret Kindness
Agents in which students performed random acts of kindness. This is now a local movement in
Omaha due to Ferial writing a book about it.
Fast-forward once more. Ferial had been noticed. She now is a professor at UNO. She
teaches teachers. Who knows where she’ll be next, but I can say that she will be making the
world a better place for all people, not just her students. She is still my go-to person if
something were to happen where I do not feel accepted or good enough because of who I am. I
am a medical student now. I do not think I would be on this path if Ferial had not paved it by
making me feel comfortable and safe learning as a biracial and gay student. I can truly say that
Ferial has and probably will change more lives in her lifetime than I will in mine.

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