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SHOUT OUT SPOTLIGHT – Kelly Standing

Meet Kelly Standing, 2014 SHOUT OUT! cast member!

Kelly Standing

KELLY STANDING has been hit by a car, struck by lightning and hanged from a tree. She barely missed a mass murder at her high-school workplace. In an unrelated incident, Kelly had a major organ removed. Contrary to medical precedent, it grew back! With 48 hours to live, at age 29, doctors told her to say goodbye to her three-year-old daughter … forever. Kelly went into the “Bright Light,” came back out and lived to tell … still STANDING … still smiling. Kelly credits a wide circle of gifted educators and her family’s “Recipe for Resilience” for helping her land on her feet again and again. Now, as an award-winning speaker, author and coach, Kelly shares her sometimes startling, frequently funny, totally true story to inspire others to see the possibilities in their pain and to blow the doors off every goal they set. www.STANDINGMedia.com


Kelly is no stranger to the amazing and extraordinary, and we know she’ll be amazing on the stage during the SHOUT OUT.  Here are her answers to our spotlight questions!

  • What is your educational background? If you’re still in school, what grade/level are you at?

I have a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Missouri School of Journalism – class of 1982. Go, Tigers!  I pursued graduate research at the National College of Education in 1986. My research subject: “Learning in the Womb” – what human babies (and newborns of other species) already know when they’re born and how/whether we can impact that early learning positively or negatively. Guess what? We CAN! 

Between 2003 and 2008, I spent five years in graduate school – Eden Theological Seminary (St. Louis) and McCormick Theological Seminary (Chicago) pursuing a Masters in Divinity degree. I’m not slow; it just takes that long, but ultimately I decided I felt called to leave chaplaincy and my clergy collar to write a book and return to my work as a motivational speaker in the private sector.

Like Michelangelo said at age 80, “I am still learning.”

  • What do you want to be when you grow up? I don’t intend to grow up. If I haven’t by now, at age 54, why start now?
  • If you are employed, what do you do?

I save audiences from boring speakers. How do I do that? … I deliver speeches as a motivational speaker, I write speeches for other people to give as a corporate speechwriter, and I coach speakers to deliver their remarks comfortably, confidently and profitably.

Although I live in St. Louis, I own a company called STANDING Media, based in Chicago. We work with organizations that want their people to rally around change and adversity, so they can blow the doors off every goal they set.

I have authored one book, I’M STILL STANDING: How One Woman’s Brushes with Death Taught Her How To Live, with a second “in the works.”

Also, I write executive memoirs to preserve the personal and professional legacies of people who have impacted their companies, their communities, their industries or the planet in lasting ways.

  • Do you have a favorite story (that you’re not telling for the SHOUT OUT) that happened to YOU during your education?

I had a number of spectacular teachers throughout my education and… truth be told … a few rotten eggs. I learned important lessons from both. Mrs. Neville, my third-grade teacher, qualifies as my earliest “favorite.” She “got” me.  At that age, I had more energy, imagination and unbridled enthusiasm than 10 kids put together, perhaps because I had nearly died a couple of times already before I made it to third grade, so I felt perhaps compelled to squeeze all the juice out of life … in a hurry!

Mrs. Neville LIKED that about me. She LIKED my unconventional energy and the quirky way I saw the world. She invited me to share it, not squelch it the way other teachers sometimes did … especially teachers who had enjoyed the quieter, much more subtle charms and straight-A intellect of my older sister. Mrs. Neville never insisted that I “light somewhere,” as my exasperated grandmother often did.

In 1960s St. Louis, we all had autograph books we used to collect the signatures of our friends, Cardinal baseball players, if we were lucky enough to meet one, and less well known “celebrities,” like our teachers. That year, Mrs. Neville signed my autograph book with this memorable line: “If I could have 23 Kellys in my classroom, my life would be perfect.” It made me cry then, and it still makes me tear up even now.

Many years later, at age 48, I participated in a guided meditation class. The instructor told us to breathe a certain way, very deep, circular breathing. The instructor said we would begin by imagining ourselves on a beach – no particular beach, just one we had seen or liked or visited. Then, we would swim in the ocean, be joined by a little dolphin, then dive to the bottom and on and on …

The meditation had many steps. At the end, the instructor said, we would come out of the water (in our imaginations), and we would find ourselves either on the same beach or another one … and … everyone who had EV-ER loved us would be standing on the beach waiting to welcome us.

“Cool!” I thought.

At the end of the meditation, just as the instructor predicted, I did, indeed, emerge from my imaginary meditative ocean and found the beach absolutely FILLED with familiar people. The sight took my breath away. I gasped. I knew every single person on that crowded beach – friends from childhood, long-lost colleagues, even people who had been in my audiences over the years.

It took me a minute to focus, but, eventually, I realized that standing right in front of me – HUGE, towering over me — was my current mentor (someone I have known and trusted for 30 years) and, right next to him, Mrs. Neville, smiling one of her famous, encouraging smiles, looking just the same, except she stood at least 10 feet tall. I hadn’t thought about her in decades but felt SO happy to “see” her again, even if only through an ocean, a dolphin and my subconscious.

  • What subject in school was your LEAST favorite and why?

I struggled most with math. We didn’t know what “learning disabilities” were in those days, but, apparently, I HAD one. I scored off the charts great at language arts; bottom of the barrel in math.

I had a very cruel second-grade teacher, Mrs. Schneider, who made matters worse by ridiculing me in front of the class, comparing me to my “smarter”older sister and acting as if any idiot should be able to master fractions from Day One.

Unrelated but equally perplexing, Mrs. Schneider once announced to our class, “Don’t be afraid of thunder, but BE AFRAID OF LIGHTNING!” Seriously?! That’s how you prepare second-graders for stormy weather?! … Ironically, about 20 years later, I was, indeed, struck by lightning. Mrs. Schneider wasn’t wrong about the dangers of lightning, but what a silly way to convey her message.

To this day, thanks to Mrs. Schneider, I agree with a bumper sticker I once read: “Four out of three people have trouble with fractions.”

I also agree with the Confucian wisdom that says, “Seek not ALL qualities in ONE individual.”

  1. Who do you feel is the hardest working person in an educational system and why?

I suppose that depends on WHICH educational system you mean, but I think the hardest working people in any educational system SHOULD BE the students.

I read somewhere that, in a teaching environment, “Whoever is doing the most talking is doing the most learning.” As a motivational speaker, I heard that as an encouragement to become more of what they call a “guide on the side” with my audience members versus a “sage on the stage.”

In more traditional elementary or secondary education, as well, I favor curricula that encourage students to work very hard constructing their own knowledge, with a teacher as a “guide on the side.”

If you take that question out of the theoretical realm and put it in the real world, I would say, generally, TEACHERS are the hardest working people in the educational system, especially relative to their compensation, because they’re in the trenches dealing with all the things the rest of society often leaves undone – instilling healthy routines – bedtimes, meal times, balancing homework, sports and TV or technology time– manners and civility, nutrition, hygiene and health, etc. Teachers can only work with what families send them, and, I believe, teachers often are forced to use far too much of their own money to underwrite what the system’s budget should cover.

I have known some amazingly gifted administrators, too, who worked unrelenting schedules to learn best practices and next practices, to guide their schools, to mentor, motivate and support teachers, to deal with the community as a whole and individual families at risk or in crisis and to help their students in and out of the classroom.

It may sound trite, but, “It takes a village.” If EACH OF US worked as hard as we could on the ONE area we could impact the most, I sincerely believe all educational challenges would disappear so fast our heads would spin. That’s a BIG “if,” however.

  • What teacher in your life would you like to hear from during a future KAI SHOUT OUT?  Mrs. Neville, of course, but I suspect she’s enjoying the “Bright Light” in the great cosmic classroom by now.
  • Did you walk to elementary school or ride a bus? Any funny memories?

I walked about 1 ¼ miles each way to and from elementary school in the 1960s. We had a little farmer’s market (Sander’s) on the way, where we could stop on the way home and buy chocolate milk and Hostess fruit pies, Twinkies and Cupcakes – not funny but fattening. Good thing we had to WALK!

We had to pay a deposit if we took the milk bottle with us, so we all lined up in a row on the stoop, probably 15 or 20 kids at a time, swilling the milk as fast as we could, comparing brown milk mustaches, handing back the bottles, then racing home, laughing about all the sloshing in our stomachs.

  • What excites you the most about education?  I love that education never ends. … EVERYone can learn something new EVERY day – from birth all the way to the “Bright Light.” You don’t need any special equipment … no high-tech props or products … not even any money, necessarily. You can just sit, watch, ask questions and — POOF! — you learn something!

We sure are excited to hear from Kelly, when she reads What’s Your Q? on Monday, November 17th at 7pm.  Tickets are still available online at www.kaneland.org or can be purchased at the box office on the night of the show.  Tickets are $5 each.

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