We Will Miss You, Mr. Gilyard!

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“I have learned so much from him,” Upper School Administrative Coordinator Lindsay Perkins said as she reflected on Dean of Students Will Gilyard, who will be leaving KO at the end of the school year. “It is a huge loss. There are huge shoes to be filled, and I think that the way he inspires us, me, and the community is going to be just a big loss.” As Mrs. Perkins shared these words with me, she began to tear up, sad to be losing the regular company of not only a colleague but also a friend.   

Mr. Gilyard has had an impact not only on KO’s faculty and staff, but also on the students. He may play a serious role at KO, but he also acts as a friend to many. Mrs. Perkins has many emotions about Mr. Gilyard leaving, which are emotions shared by students and other individuals in the greater KO community. 

After nine years at KO, Mr. Gilyard is moving on, but he sat down to share some final words as he thinks about the legacy he leaves behind. He wants to be remembered as one who always cared for others, put smiles on people’s faces, and created a sense of community. With school not resuming for the rest of the academic year, Mr. Gilyard said he wants his legacy to be one of caring beyond self.

“I hope that the impact for kids who I have worked with for over the nine years that I have been at KO, is caring for kids and their families, compassion, trying to create a sense of community, empathy and caring for one another,” Mr. Gilyard said. 

Mr. Gilyard clearly has made an impact on everyone in the KO community and has exhibited his care for the community through his endless support of everyone. He explained his goals for the community even further. “We all will behave in a way that matches what the ideals are and what our words are and that our actions match our thoughts and words,” he said. Mr. Gilyard has filled many different roles at KO, including teacher, Dean of Students, advisor, and coach, but also a friend to all.

Although he has had so many special and impactful moments and memories with students at KO, there has definitely been one special moment that remains with him. “One of the things that stands out to me was when the students asked me to be the graduation speaker,” he said. “That was an amazing honor for my fourth year at the school.” Mr. Gilyard was the graduation speaker in 2014, and the central message of his address to the school was finding your authentic self. 

At times during assemblies, he has had to address difficult situations, such as theft or this year’s vandalism, but other times he just wants to make sure that everyone knows he is there for them no matter what. Mr. Gilyard truly believes that taking care of other people should be everyone’s number one focus and goal in life. “For me, there is no amount of money in the world that replaces making someone smile, and I think that is huge,” he said. 

Mr. Gilyard said that he has been inspired by famous American poet and memoirist Maya Angelou. “One of the things that really shapes my education and philosophy is something Maya Angelou said a lot,” Mr. Gilyard said, “which was learning that people will forget what you did or what you said, but they will never forget how they made you feel.” He believes the saying really guides how he interacts with people. 

Director of Academic Planning Carolyn McKee, the prior Dean of Students, believes Mr. Gilyard filled the role very well and brought to it high energy, a love for kids, and an ability to balance discipline and doing what is in the best interest of the community. “Kids respect him,” Ms. McKee said. “They listen to him and know that he means business.” 

One of Ms. McKee’s favorite memories of Mr. Gilyard is when he wrote an original rap a few summers ago and performed it. “I have so many memories of laughing with Mr. G.,” she said. “He does not take anything too seriously and whether it is his dance moves or some of his jokes, I feel that I have spent a lot of time laughing with him!”

Ms. McKee believes that Mr. Gilyard has elevated the conversation about student life and, more specifically, what it means to be a student at KO and what students need. Mr. Gilyard is a person who wants to make sure that everyone has the best experience possible. “I think that he will be missed tremendously,” Ms. McKee said. 

Director of Diversity, Inclusion, and Cultural Competency Joan Edwards thinks that the impact Mr. Gilyard had on KO was one of representation and visibility, as Mr. Gilyard was one of two black males in the faculty group at KO. For Ms. Edwards, that was huge; Ms. Edwards believes that education should be a combination of windows and mirrors, a quote from Emily Style, which Ms. Edwards personally enjoys and is inspired by. “The mirror that Mr. Gilyard provided for black and brown males is amazing and even more so important,” Ms. Edwards said. 

Ms. Edwards believes that Mr. Gilyard not only provided visibility and representation as an African American man, but also as someone who understands how to navigate a predominantly white institution. “For me, having a colleague who looked liked me, because I am the only black female at this school, was huge,” Ms. Edwards said. Ms. Edwards explained that sometimes teachers also need to be uplifted and need to see themselves represented so that they can feel that they belong. This is precisely the impact that Mr. Gilyard had on Ms. Edwards. 

“The thing about representation is not just about race,” Ms. Edwards said, “but about cultural and generational things that you enjoy, and one of the things that I have enjoyed about connecting with Mr. Gilyard is our love of music, specifically hip hop music.” 

Ms. Edwards’s favorite moments with Mr. Gilyard were when she would make a statement that both she and Mr. Gilyard recognized as a lyric in a hip hop song, and they would both sing it. If there was a time where they could not sing it, such as in a meeting, they might refer to it later or send a message to each other about it. “It was in those moments when we both realized that we both got the lyric or reference from a song, and then even better was when we could sing it together!” Ms. Edwards said. 

Math teacher Denise Garcia feels that Mr. Gilyard has definitely helped the students feel comfortable expressing emotions with each other. She believes that Mr. Gilyard has helped students understand that faculty want to create a safe and caring environment. 

Mrs. Garcia has been the longest math teacher to know and work with Mr. Gilyard and last year, they even co-taught a class. She also explained that Mr. Gilyard has helped her gain perspective on students outside of the classroom. “I got to know him very well as a teacher, and he really helped me learn to focus on my students as whole people, and not just as students who I am teaching math to,” she said. Mrs. Garcia feels that Mr. Gilyard is a great person to have conversations with and a person who can always make her laugh.

Science teacher and football coach Noah Lynd said that Mr. Gilyard has had a huge impact throughout the whole Upper School, adding that Mr. Gilyard has been a great advocate on behalf of the students and faculty members and is loved by many people in the community. “His positivity has been a great asset in terms of increasing the well-being of everyone in the community,” Mr. Lynd said. 

Mr. Lynd said Mr. Gilyard has been a great friend and person to talk to when anything comes up that Mr. Lynd needs advice on, or even if he just has a question. “It has been a lot of fun to get to know Mr. Gilyard and to have him as a trusted confidant and someone I can speak with on campus,” Mr. Lynd said. 

Mr. Lynd has been a football coach alongside Mr. Gilyard for a few years and explained that just seeing Mr. Gilyard’s passion for football and coaching was very fun for him, especially during Mr. Lynd’s first year coaching football. 

While Mr. Gilyard has had a huge impact on faculty at KO, his impact on students may be even more significant, especially those in his advisory group. “Mr. Gilyard goes out of his way to know and become friends with every student and teacher,” junior advisee Sam Smith said. Sam said he feels that Mr. Gilyard is always a friendly face around campus. “I don’t think there isn’t a time when he’s not smiling,” he said. “I’ve never seen anyone give so much time, effort, and care into our school. From maintaining an amazing community to dancing in the auditorium.” 

“Mr. Gilyard is such a kind and fun person, and you can always see him around campus with a smile on his face,” another of Mr. Gilyard’s advisees junior Hunter Meshanic said. “He’s had a strong impact on KO by just always being positive and creating an environment where people feel free to be themselves.” Mr. Gilyard has helped Hunter to think more about the effect words can have on certain people, whether they are meant as a joke or not, and that you should always be positive. 

“Mr. Gilyard has impacted me in great ways,” junior advisee Isabelle Burke said. “He has taught my whole advisory group to care beyond self through what he calls ‘Thankful Thursday,’ texting, emailing, or calling a loved one and telling them you are thankful.”

When Mr. Gilyard had to tell his advisory group that he was leaving this year, he was not the only one crying after he told them. “Just to show how much he cares about us in the advisory group, he had a hard time even telling us he was leaving,” Hunter said. 

In their advisory group, he always made sure the students stayed on track with their classes, and in the beginning of each quarter he met with everyone individually to set goals and review goals from the previous semester. “Not only does he help us set goals, but accomplish them, recommending tutors and strategies,” Isabelle said. 

As his advisee, Sam said he especially felt Mr. Gilyard’s broad impact on KO. “Mr. Gilyard has had an amazing impact on KO that will surely be remembered at the school,” Sam said. Sam has only known Mr. Gilyard for three years, but as his football coach and advisor, he has also become a friend. Sam said he truly feels that he can go to Mr. Gilyard about anything without hesitation. “Every time I come to advisory, he is the happiest person in the world, and it’s because he truly cares about every single student,” he said. 

Sam went on to talk about Mr. Gilyard as an inspiring coach as well. “As a coach, he’s the first person I hear when I make a tackle in football,” Sam said. “He’s a role model to me and as well as the whole school.”

For freshman Ely Alleyne, Mr. Gilyard is someone on campus she looks up to – someone who always supports her through everything. “Even though I have had instances where I have gotten in trouble, he has still gotten me through it and not in a way to make me feel bad about it but instead as a learning opportunity,” Ely said. Ely said she feels that Mr. Gilyard has always been someone she can go to, especially if she is having a hard time. “Mr. Gilyard is always very comforting and always makes me laugh and has been a really significant person on campus for me,” Ely said. 

Ely explained that at times when she really didn’t want to go to school, thinking of Mr. Gilyard being there and seeing him in the mornings is what got her to school that day. She said she believes that Mr. Gilyard is courageous for getting up at assemblies when our community isn’t doing our best and encouraging us all to be better.

Another one of Mr. Gilyard’s advisees, junior Sean Burnham, said that Mr. Gilyard is easily one of his favorite people at KO. “The fact that students can connect with him so well makes him a great person to go to if you are going through something or need an adult to talk to,” Sean said. Sean feels that people always know that Mr. Gilyard cares about them and not just KO’s image.

Isabelle said she feels that Mr. Gilyard has been the core of the KO community as he is always looking for ways to improve and ways to improve everyone’s experience. “I am so grateful that I have had the privilege to learn under Mr. Gilyard with my fellow advisee members,” Isabelle said. Isabelle is going to miss Mr. Gilyard considerably but knows that his future students will be very lucky to learn from him. “He will be missed, but I am so happy for the future students who will be able to learn, grow, and succeed with his help,” she said. 

Although we are sure Mr. Gilyard is going to do great things wherever his career takes him, the KO community has some questions. What impact on students will the new Dean of Students have? 

Community. Kindness. Inspiration. Respect. While at KO, Mr. Gilyard helped to develop an even stronger sense of community for us all. Mr. Gilyard shows respect to everyone and is one of the kindest people at KO. He has been an inspiration to students and faculty alike, and his legacy at KO will always be remembered!