The Other Half of the Ron Clark Story

Written by Maureen Downey

At this weekend’s 2014 AJC Decatur Book Festival, I am introducing Kim Bearden, cofounder, executive director, and language arts teacher at the Ron Clark Academy, the well-known middle school and educator training facility in Atlanta.
Bearden’s book, “Crash Course: The Life Lessons My Students Taught Me,” came out this summer. I just finished it tonight.
Since graduating the University of Georgia in 1987, Bearden has been a teacher, instructional lead teacher, curriculum director, school board member, staff development trainer and middle school principal.

Bearden is a remarkable teacher. I’ve seen in action at the Ron Clark Academy. She is well known in metro Atlanta where she taught in Cobb County. Her résumé is rich with rewards and acclaim; she was selected from more than 70,000 nominations to be honored as the Disney American Teacher Awards Outstanding Middle School Humanities Teacher. She also received the Milken Educator Award, considered the Oscar of education.

Along with Clark, whom she met at the Disney American Teacher Awards in 2000, Bearden teaches other educators how to engage and motivate students.

When the pair met, Clark was teaching in New York and Bearden was teaching in Cobb. They connected and dreamed long distance of someday starting their own school. When Clark’s first book, “The Essential 55: An Award-Winning Educator's Rules for Discovering the Successful Student in Every Child,” became a best seller and supplied the seed money for their school, Clark agreed to move to Atlanta where Bearden lived with her husband and daughter.

The AJC Decatur Book Festival opens 8 p.m. Friday with the keynote speech by novelist Joyce Carol Oates and ends 6 p.m. Sunday.

For information on how to book Kim Bearden for your next event, visit


Kim Bearden: Best Selling Author, Co-founder at Ron Clark Academy, and National Teacher Hall of Fame; Organization Culture / Climate and Communication Specialist

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