Gwynedd Mercy University, English Secondary Education; Administrative Leadership, MA (in progress)
I had the privilege of having three black English teachers throughout my middle school and high school years. They all helped me to realize the power of my voice and how to ensure that no one can take it away from me. Their high expectations and meaningful assignments showed me that I was stronger than I could have ever imagined. Without their support and guidance, I don’t know if I would be where I’m at today. I became a teacher because our students need someone who looks like them. Not because of the ability to relate from a cultural perspective, but it also lets our students know what is possible.
My education has been short, but very FULL to say the least. I am currently an Assistant Principal at Carmen Middle School: Northwest Campus. I always thought that I would stay in the classroom, but I thank my village for pushing me to see that I can make an even greater impact! I get to wear many different hats to make sure that our students are getting what they need to be successful and see the joy in learning! It is an interesting time to leave the classroom, but I enjoy the challenge of thinking about how we make sure that our students are learning every day regardless of their situation. My favorite work as an educator will always be in the classroom. I have spent the majority of my career as a 9th grade English teacher, but I have also spent some time teaching African American studies to high school seniors. I also served as a near peer tutor with City Year Milwaukee and eventually transitioned into my own classroom with the support of Teach For America- Milwaukee.
I’ve always known that I wanted to work in education, but I wanted to make sure that I didn’t fall into the 5 year drop out that is so common for teachers of color. I started to build my resume in college by working with two phenomenal programs for middle and high school students: Upward Bound and Summerbridge Pittsburgh. Without the coaching, culture and experience, I know that I would still be in education, but they helped to lay a foundation in order to develop into the type of educator I want to continue to be in the future.
Why am I still here? Because this is where I am supposed to be. Because this work matters. Because our students matter. Because our students deserve an education that affirms and engages them. Because we need to make sure that the future change makers of this nation are set up for success and know that they have a strong village who will support them every step of the way. There is nothing more important than this job. I’m here because we don’t need anyone else giving up on our students or settling for less. I’m still here to make sure my students can advocate for themselves in any situation. I’m here to make sure that my students make it to and through wherever they choose to go next.
This pandemic has really revealed so many of the inequities that are present in the school system. While they have always existed, there is no better time than now to change what education could and should be for all students. We have consistently failed our Black and Brown students, and we have made decisions on their behalf without allowing them a seat at the table. Especially considering that within Milwaukee, 1 in 7 African Americans live in extreme poverty. The impact of that creates conditions where learning from home is a major challenge.
One thing my network has worked to do is to create resources for families. School is not just about test scores and grades, it is about taking the steps needed to improve quality of life. One way we have addressed this is by creating an emergency relief fund for families in order to address needs that may impact learning and living. While this may not seem big, it has allowed us to do more than say we want to support, but actually put into action what it looks like to be a part of a community where people care about each other. In addition, the pandemic has allowed us to focus more on instruction rather than compliance. By shifting our focus, we are able to support students in their learning and refine the power that they have always had. We are making sure that student voice is also included in this conversation whether that be around identity, school changes and sharing their experiences with classmates. Things that would normally be put on the back burner, have now made their way to the front causing a major shift in how students view school. We, as a school, must continue to push forward by educating ourselves and having the difficult conversations that will lead to the transformation. This is not a sprint towards equity and justice; it is a marathon.
I follow an amazing instagram page @teachfortheculture. She says it all the time, and I tell my teachers all the time. It is pretty simple. I hope that we get to a place where joy and learning must co-exist. A place where every student receives a quality education that pushes them to be their best selves no matter what. I hope for a place where a kid can be a kid.