Maya Angelou: Teachers Are ‘Rainbows in the Clouds’

By Liana Loewus — March 17, 2013 1 min read
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Live from ASCD’s annual conference in Chicago

Renowned poet Maya Angelou just finished a moving keynote address in front of a packed ballroom here at the ASCD conference. She spoke above all of “rainbows in the clouds,” or the people who bring us hope and change our lives.

“I had rainbows in my clouds—men and women who had enough courage to encourage me.” She spoke specifically of her Uncle Willie, who taught her to do her times tables. “Black, poor, crippled ... born during the lynching years. This man was a rainbow in somebody’s cloud.” Courage, she said, is the key to being someone’s rainbow. “Without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.”

Angelou mentioned that despite a tumultuous childhood, which included sexual abuse and six years suffering from selective mutism, she has now taught around the world and holds 70 honorary doctorates. “You might think I’m bragging on myself ... I’m bragging on the rainbows in my clouds.”

With the gentle, joyful touch for which she’s known, Angelou implored the educators in the room to keep talking and encouraging each other with “some sass ... some flair, some passion, some compassion, some humor.”

“You are rainbows in the clouds,” she said. “It delights my heart to encourage you to continue.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.