'Everyday she motivates me:' MPS teacher honored for efforts to keep MLK's message alive

Kelly O'Keefe-Boettcher

MILWAUKEE -- An Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) teacher on Friday, Jan. 18, was recognized for her efforts to keep Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy alive.

"I thought I was in trouble! She hits me with, 'I need to talk to you,'" said Kelly O'Keefe-Boettcher, teacher, Rufus King International High School.

Kelly O'Keefe-Boettcher was far from in trouble with the principal; instead, she was surprised with the Marcus Center's 2019 MLK 'Teacher of the Year' award.

Kelly O'Keefe-Boettcher

Kelly O'Keefe-Boettcher

"I had no idea," said O'Keefe-Boettcher.

Each January, the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts celebrates the late Dr. King's birthday.

Kelly O'Keefe-Boettcher

This year, O'Keefe-Boettcher, or as her students call her -- Ms. OKB -- is being honored for her long-standing support of the program.

"His life and his message must be protected and sustained. For me, that gets me out of bed in the morning," said O'Keefe-Boettcher. "My students participate in this every year and when I see teachers being honored, I think, 'I want to meet that teacher. That teacher must be such an inspiration.'"

An MPS teacher since 1998, O'Keefe-Boettcher incorporates Dr. King's legacy into her lessons. It's a passion that doesn't go unnoticed -- even by her students.

Cedric Banks

"Everyday she motivates me to come to class. We talk about something new. It's very exciting to be in Ms. OKB's class," said Cedric Banks, Rufus King High School junior.

"She gives a voice to students who don't think they have a voice," said Donelle Johnson, MLK writing contest coordinator.

Through art, speech and writing, students will take the stage Sunday as O'Keefe-Boettcher stands by in support of them -- and Dr. King.'s message.

"We make time for Dr. King. We make time for this conversation because it will change lives," said O'Keefe-Boettcher.

The Marcus Center's 35th annual Dr. King Birthday Celebration takes place Sunday, Jan. 20 at 1 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Kelly O'Keefe-Boettcher