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Celebrating the Woman Next Door: Emily Kinnunen

In partnership with AdventHealth for Women, we’re recognizing some of the women in our community who are selflessly giving to others while raising families, supporting their loved ones and building their careers. Whether they know it or not, their stories inspire other women in their shoes.

A music teacher for Orange County Public Schools, Emily Kinnunen lives, breathes and plays music. Even when classes went virtual, she continued to come up with the most creative lesson plans for her students and did everything in her power to brighten their days. She even attends her students’ musical performances and after-school activities in her free time, truly showing how her dedication to her students shines both inside and outside the classroom.

What is your WHY?

As a teacher, this is a question I get asked a lot. I have wanted to be a teacher from the moment I entered a school. My biggest goal is to always leave the world a little bit of a brighter place. As a music teacher, my biggest WHY is that I absolutely love what I do and I can’t imagine doing anything else because I love being able to make music with the most amazing young musicians every single day.

On your toughest of days, what motivates you to put one foot in front of the other?

I would have to say that my biggest motivators are all of my students. In five years of teaching, I have taught roughly 3,000 students from the ages of kindergarten all the way through high school seniors. I believe that every child deserves to have the best teacher in front of them in the classroom. If I am not at my best, I am letting down all of my students. I strive to be the best teacher I can be for them and they push me to become better and better every day.

Have you drawn inspiration from other women? Tell us about someone who has inspired you.

There are so many amazing women in the world, and it is honestly hard to pick just one person, but the woman who gives me the most inspiration would have to be my mom. My mom is one of the most incredible people in the world. She always has done whatever she can to make sure that I can be the best possible version of me, whether that means being my biggest cheerleader, being there for the tough moments or celebrating the successes in my life. I cannot think of anyone who is more inspiring to me than she is every day, and if I can be just as amazing as she is one day, then that is more than okay by me.

What is the one word that perfectly explains who you are?

This may seem like a strange word, but I believe that the best word to describe me would be sparkly. Throughout my life, people have always said that I am a ray of sunshine and that my positivity always sparkles when I enter a room. When I am around people, especially my students, I always have a ton of energy and hope that they leave my class feeling more positive than when they entered. My mom always tells me to, “Sparkle and Shine,” no matter where you are, and those words have stuck with me wherever I go.

Would you change anything about how you have handled challenges or successes thus far in your life?

When I think back on all of the challenges and successes in my life so far, I don’t think I would change anything. I know that things happen, whether they are good or bad, for reasons to make us stronger individuals. We learn from both our challenges and our successes and they help us learn and grow.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of being confident in my own skin and not being afraid to be who I am. For so many women and young girls, being confident in one’s own skin is something that they often struggle with. I am a firm believer that being true to yourself never goes out of style and there is nothing better than being exactly who you are.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced and what did you learn from it?

When I think back on some of the biggest challenges I have faced, I often think back to when I was growing up and my peers telling me that I was different, that I didn’t fit in with everyone else and that I would never be good at what I do. Instead of letting these hurtful words set me back, I always knew that if I set my mind to something, that I would be able to achieve my goals. Along with this, I knew that being different from everyone else is what made me special. All of these experiences made me become the confident woman that I am today. I always tell my students that I love them for being just the way they are, and I believe that my experiences have helped shape that lesson that every child leaves my classroom knowing.

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Written by Lyndsay Fogarty

Lyndsay Fogarty has had many roles at Central Florida Lifestyle, working her way from intern to contributing writer to managing editor. She is a graduate of the University of Central Florida’s Nicholson School of Communication where she earned her degree in journalism. Along the way, she has learned that teamwork and dedication to your craft will get you far, and a positive outlook on the present will get you even farther.

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