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Kendall Nichols ’23 (History, Secondary Education): Teaching the Next Generation Life Lessons in Verse

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On the final page of his book, Modern Constellations, you will learn that while he is “typically the shortest person in the room, Kendall Nichols’ personality makes him feel like a giant. And if you met him, you won’t forget him anytime soon.” 

During lockdown in early 2020, Kendall moved back to his family home in Chicago, as did his six siblings. Understandably, the house felt a bit crowded.  

“I would just leave the house and just start writing with my phone. I started going to libraries because they were still open. Then it was springtime so I’d just go outside and start writing.”

Kendall was writing the poems and short stories that would be published the following year in his book, Modern Constellations

As he explains in his introduction, “the book is not a conventional poetry and or book of short stories. The book features traditional poetry styles, how-to poems, converted slam poetry pieces, short stories and everything in between. Like my mind, this book covers a lot of topics and does this in a variety of ways.”

Kendall was still attending virtual classes at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa while he worked on Modern Constellations. He was writing in class one day, his professor noticed and asked what he was working on. He said, “it looks like a book. Can I show this to you?” The professor, who also ran a publishing company, gave Kendall the connection and guidance that ultimately led to his contract with Atmosphere Press. 

One year later, Kendall and Modern Constellations have made quite the name for themselves, especially back in Chicago. 

“Currently my book is being taught in a Chicago Public School (CPS) program for creative writing. It’s currently in a pilot program for a year and a half. The class dissects the book and looks at how to make creative stories from their own things. And if it goes well, most CPS creative writing programs will have the book. And two things: that’s awesome for me and then student loans are paid off right there. That is dope. Otherwise, it’s still cool that it’s being taught in the school. I never would have even thought about using it as an educational book.”

But Modern Constellations wasn’t Kendall’s only pandemic project.

After suffering a serious concussion as a result of soccer, Kendall re-evaluated his path forward. The pandemic gave him the time and opportunity to look into other options. 

“COVID hit and I decided to transfer. It gave me an opportunity to get away from soccer and choose a new destination. I’ve always wanted to learn more about Indianapolis since it is one of the five biggest cities in the Midwest. It’s not Chicago, but I could have transportation if I needed it, I have reliable communication, and there’s people. Like there’s actually people.” 

Kendall also decided to change fields of study. At Cornell, he pursued a degree in engineering. At UIndy, he is currently working on a double major in History and Secondary Education, with a concentration in Mild Intervention, with the goal of becoming a high school history and special education teacher.

“The education department at UIndy is truly well-known. They boast their status. If you graduate, you will have a job offer whether you want it or not, multiple. Like that is amazing. I want that. I want to build my career on that and get going.” 

In addition to an impressive education program, Kendall found his own views and goals reflected in the UIndy education department faculty. 

“One of my first professors, Professor Reinhardt, is amazing. I’m bilingual. I speak Spanish as well. A lot of teachers in the education department were Spanish teachers originally. So just knowing that when I came in and she was like, ‘I used to teach Spanish’ and I said ‘okay, habla espanol?’ and we had a whole conversation on my first day. I can come to her and say She is just so awesome. When I have questions, because she also taught special ed a little bit. So it’s like I’m doing what she did. It’s just so cool having connections with her.”

Assistant Professor of Practice and Director of the Clinical Partnership Academy Kate Reinhardt is always happy to share her experience as a former middle school and high school level Spanish teacher. Her favorite thing about UIndy is working with passionate students like Kendall.   

“I have had Kendall in three classes now and his work stands out through his unique voice and writing style,” said Reinhardt. “It has been especially wonderful to see him grow and become engaged this semester in the works of scholars of culturally responsive pedagogy.  He has a passion for meeting students where they are and celebrating who they are. I am interested in seeing all that he will achieve throughout his career as an author and educator.”

And if you’ve completed Modern Constellations and are ready for Kendall’s next work, he has two additional books completed. All he needs now is to find the right publisher to bring his works to the bookstore nearest you.