Courtney Keim didn’t set out to become a teacher. In fact, she planned to be a medical physicist, but there was something in her DNA that made her want to teach. “I think it was destiny to be a teacher — both my parents were teachers,” says Keim, who is a 7th grade math teacher at Texas Ave. School in Atlantic City, as well as one of this year’s Top 40 Under 40 award winners.
Keim followed in her parents’ footsteps, noting the influence her father had over his students as a major inspiration.
“Growing up and to this day, no matter where I venture in this community, people would stop and comment about what an amazing teacher my father was at Holy Spirit back in the 1970 and ‘80s and what an impact he had on their lives , shw says.” He would remember each kid when I'd call him to tell him I'd run across another student he had taught. How can he still remember those students? How can they remember him? And I realized the more entrenched I became in this community, that I wanted to have that same impact on even a quarter of the students I've met of his that remember him.”
Beyond just teaching, Keim has made a point to be involved in the community of Atlantic City as a whole.
“I have a vested interest in this community. Both my husband and I work for the city. We live in Atlantic City. We are raising our kids in Atlantic City. So I try to improve the area in which I work, because it's the area in which I also live.” Keim says.
Keim worked along with her students on an urban garden project, which ultimately helped feed Atlantic City.
“The students were amazing last year. We met during my lunch and worked on the garden, weeding and fertilizing. During the summer, my own children would come with me after spending a day at the beach and we would harvest what was ready and distribute it to the community. This year, we have about 15 student volunteers who signed up for the club. We hope to expand our offerings to both a summer and fall harvest.”
Keim is humbled to receive the honor of being one of this year’s Top 40 Under 40.
“First, I was ecstatic to win but then, the curiosity set in on who nominated me and, honestly, what they had to say about me and why I was chosen. This self doubt that plagues me so often is the same as what I see in many of my students. I once had someone tell me I need to graciously accept a compliment rather than deflect it. I find myself telling my students that every day. You need more confidence in yourself. You are special. You are smart. You need to believe in yourself. So when I found myself wondering why, I had to set aside the doubt and graciously accept the win and just smile.”