Maya Angelou’s Contribution to Education


Earlier this week, the world lost one of the strongest minds of our time. Maya Angelou, poet and author, passed away at age 86. Of course, like all great writers, her legacy lives on through her words. I’m wrapping up our Teacher Appreciation Month with Maya Angelou as a tribute to all teachers. The way you teach, live, and inspire endures long after students have graduated from your class. So again, on behalf of all of us at Gradeable, thank you for all that you do.

Now without further ado, here are some words of wisdom, and stories of inspiration, from Maya Angelou:

5 ways Maya Angelou influenced education

Many of Angelou’s themes in both her poems and her novels deal with the distinction between ignorance and illiteracy, knowledge gained through practical experience, and the lack of equality in education. One of Angelou’s famous quotes, cited often in literary studies, reads:

“My mother said I must always be intolerant of ignorance but understanding of illiteracy. That some people, unable to go to school, were more intelligent and more educated than college professors.”
― Maya Angelou


How Maya Angelou touched a young teacher’s life

I’d been nervous to use Angelou’s memoir; there was a deep racist streak in the town, and the school itself had recently had a racially charged incident. But Angelou’s story of struggle resonated deeply with my students, and when we finished Caged Bird, they decided to continue reading as many of her books as they could. So, later that year when I read in the newspaper that Angelou would be speaking at Hope College an hour away, I organized an evening field trip. When I announced the outing, several of my students admitted that they’d never been out of the county before.
—Maya Wilson


“She’s the quintessential teacher”

She’s the quintessential teacher because she has paid attention to everything. And we all know that everything, experience, in life is here to teach us about ourselves. She hasn’t missed a moment and she has taken in, absorbed, soaked it all up, and is able to artfully—and soulfully—re-present it to us so we can se a better picture of ourselves through her.
—Oprah Winfrey 


Finally, through the years, we’ve all forgotten the physics equations and the synonyms for mitigate or the difference between Van Gogh and da Vinci’s styles… but what none of us will ever forget is how our teachers empowered us along the way—believing in us and encouraging us when we lost hope in ourselves. Thank you, teachers everywhere.

maya angelou quote

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