Cleveland Academy of Leadership
1.) Tell us about your role as an educator. What does your typical day look like?
In my current role, I am an Instructional Coach of the intermediate grades of an elementary school. A typical day in my capacity includes observing and mentoring teachers as well as consistent communication with administration. I have had the opportunity to facilitate change in the instructional practices of teachers as they deliver information to students. My day involves being intentional about helping the staff plan more productively and teach more effectively. One of the most important pieces to my role this year was helping to communicate the vision and mission of the school with all stakeholders. This action was organized to help them conceptualize the daily work we do with students. Additionally, I am able to develop and implement professional growth opportunities for teachers and support staff to increase our capacity. A personal goal of mine this year was to build teacher efficacy and I have helped to influence change by serving and assisting teachers to improve their practice.
2.) What’s your education philosophy summed up in one sentence?
In order to truly educate children, one must find out how to engage and empower the student by developing relationships and valuing their culture.
3.) Why did you become an educator?
An educator is a person who provides instruction that impacts the learning capacity, moral compass, and beliefs of an individual. To call yourself an educator means that you have the ability to facilitate knowledge and help one discover the unknown. I became an educator because I saw a need to help young children learn how to acquire knowledge in ways that would be considered unconventional but connective to their culture. It was when I came to understand that there were children in the third grade that could not read and I decided to be the difference maker. This decision was founded with the basis that marginalized children do not always receive an adequate education and there had to be a person who wanted to change the world for that child. So I made the determination that the person would be me. A person with absolute
certainty that all children deserve an education that motivates, informs, and challenges them to be better each day.
4.) As an SCASCD Emerging Leader, how do you hope to have a greater effect on education in your community and beyond?
As an SCASCD Emerging Leader, I hope to be able to develop a path of teaching and learning that designs methods for children of poverty to be successful in and out of the classroom. Within this model I expect that the children who engage in this model will then be able to return the investment to their local communities and have a global impact of change. It starts with building the teacher’s capacity and efficacy to not only educate but embrace the needs of diverse learners. As educational leaders we have to help our fellow colleagues feel the sense of success that comes with teaching the most difficult learners in the school. Our stock in our personal worth grows and develops when we overcome what we consider to be obstacles and instead view them as learning experiences that increases the value of the local community as well. Across the state, the same population of students in every district are being marginalized and not properly educated. As an educator we have made a promise or declaration to ensure that we can help students improve and be successful. This promise demonstrates the understanding that we expect to see success in our students and fellow colleagues. With this mindset, the greater effect on education would be fulfilled through our collaboration, accountability, and purposeful increase in our knowledge of teaching and learning.
5.) What types of professional development (books, DVDs, webinars, courses) have made a difference in your career?
• Dr. Jawanzaa Kunjufu – “Black Students, Middle Class Teachers”
• Dr. Gloria Ladson Billings – “The Dreamkeepers”
• Dr. Chris Emdin – “For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood...and the rest of y’all too”
• Paul Gorski – “Reaching and Teaching Students of Poverty”
• Eric Jensen – “Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind”
• Furman University School Leadership Graduate program (Leadership in Educational Organizations)
6.) Was there a pivotal moment when you realized your career choice in education was the correct one? Describe that time.
What we have to understand about the work that we do is that we are creating and developing the next generation. If they are not successful with the basic skills, then our society lacks the necessary pieces to demonstrate advancement. Teaching a child to read is the most fundamental skill that opens endless doors of
opportunity. Learning the magic and science of teaching a child to read was the pivotal moment when I realized that this career choice was the one of the best decisions I have made. Being able to watch a child who had no letter- sound knowledge learn how to decode and read fluently is breathtaking. I believe the most important piece of this experience is how the students saw the value in learning how to read and how a whole new world was revealed to them through a book.
7.) If you could make one major change in education, what would it be?
The game changer in today’s classroom is the perception of the students by the teacher. Each child has very diverse needs and some children are more diverse than others but as an educator, we cannot dismiss those needs because they do not match our view of the traditional student. Embracing the differences in cultural backgrounds would be the biggest change that I would like to help teachers make across the state. If we make the conscious decision to value the presence of every child in our school, then I believe we can see true change happening as we focus on educating children.
8.) What is your most rewarding experience as an educator?
The most rewarding experience for me as an educator was developing a girl’s empowerment group at Alexander Elementary School for 4th and 5th graders called Girls on the R.I.S.E (Respectfully Independent with Success in Education). The purpose of this group was to provide an environment where the girls can learn more about themselves and to help them set goals for the future. The program was designed for the students to experience 8 sessions of empowerment through different topics, such as, self-esteem and confidence, character, good manners, etiquette, decision making, healthy eating habits, fitness, and goal setting. This was a rewarding experience because the young ladies were able to build self-esteem and collaborate with one another in a different arena other than the classroom to deal with real-life issues and situations. The building of their character during this experience helped them to understand that they have the power to make a difference in the world with the right foundation.