Getting in the zone of teaching is wonderful. When I'm teaching and see a child's eyes light up - It makes my day.
The first teacher who truly inspired me was a fifth grade teacher named Mr. Lesko; no, he wasn't Black but he became a father figure to me by saying this to my mother: “She is capable of doing above average work. She doesn't realize her potential: she's quite smart.” From that moment on, I became his shadow and he inspired me to learn. The second teacher was a woman named Mrs. Mills who told me I was a brilliant literary analyst and writer. I had her in both the 11th and 12th grades for Advanced Placement English. She is the sole reason I went to college. From a historical standpoint the individuals who have motivated me to delve into American History (African American History) are the "heavy-hitters" of history: David Blight, Jason Opal, Graham Hodges and James Oakes as well as Erica Armstrong Dunbar and Manisha Sinha. Yes, I have actually studied with all of them and continue to do so. I try to teach my students that education is lifelong and one never stops learning: I learn something new every day. Case in point: Ebenezer Bassett was the first African American Ambassador (to Haiti) under Grant. I learned that yesterday!
Ruth Terry Walden, Esq., is a teacher and practicing attorney. She has taught in Stamford, CT for 15 years.
I teach because it is what I was born to do. I teach science because I want students of color to see themselves in science. And I teach in Oakland because I am my students; I am Oakland!
A teacher for nine years, Josette Neal-De-Stanton teaches in Oakland.
I teach because a mind is a terrible thing to waste.
I teach because there are children who will only hear the message from me.
I teach because I love what I do and I’m good at it.
A teacher for 12 years, Hope Burns teaches in San Francisco.
I teach because I owe a huge debt to my ancestors, who fought, bled, and died for my right to be free. I think it is important for young Black children to see Black teachers. They need to see that we are successful and educated and care about their futures. When I see the faces and minds of my students light up when they understand a concept or are able to do something they believed they could not, it warms my heart and grows my faith in our children. In this world there is so much bias and hate against our Black children. So it is my job as a Black educator to present a different narrative. It is my job to instill into the hearts and minds of my students that they are capable, intelligent, and, most of all, beautiful people who have much to contribute to this world despite the bias and hate. I teach because education is the most important and valuable gift I can give to Black children.
A teacher for 16 years, Anthony Arinwine currently teaches in San Francisco, CA.
I teach to reclaim education by any righteous means necessary. I teach because in me grew the desire to teach my people. My people, meaning Black and Brown people, people from marginalized areas like me, people from the community in community who seek healing, just as I do and who also seek LOVE. I teach because a face like mine lacks representation. So I have found it my duty to serve as a source of pure representation for students of color. Particularly Black students with heart and soul.
I enjoy my profession. I acknowledge the truths I find in this system (a system not constructed for Black people and people of color, etc.) through those I serve. I teach because it allows me to grow. I have learned I am able to reclaim education by challenging the system—it’s not easy, but it's a beautiful struggle because it's being done. I teach to disrupt hopelessness.
A teacher for three years, Ericka Duke teaches in Richmond, CA.
I teach because a teacher saved my life—a teacher saw something in me that I did not see in myself. My mother was a teacher, a very good teacher. She taught high school business classes in the same high school that I attended, but she did not see what another teacher saw in me. I was a child of high energy, before the clinical names of ADHD and hyperactivity and the others that tried to “label boys.” Many of my teachers struggled because I did not focus and was often off-task and “busy.” There were other issues, like my dad was not involved in my life. My mother did the best she could to provide a home filled with love and learning, peace, and support. There were things to do in the neighborhood of Germantown in Philadelphia, but my father was not there to talk to me, to guide me, to discipline me, and to be that role model I needed. I was not “bad,” just very active with high energy levels, curiosity, and no direction.
A teacher saw that my curiosity could take me places: it could fill a void and it could help me focus my attention. It could save my life from gangs, drugs, and other things that threaten a young Black man’s life when his dad is not around and his mom is working to feed and clothe him while creating a house filled with love and peace. My grandmother would help as much as she could. She told me stories of life in South Hill, Virginia. How the family came from being farmers to moving to Philly for better opportunities and how we may not be rich in money, but rich in love. We had a unique family bonding…
A teacher saw me struggle with reading and shared comic books with me. This opened up my imagination to see things with new eyes of discovery and creativity. A teacher talked to my mother about letting me run track to “burn off” my excess energy and to excel in an individual sport because I was so much of an introvert.
A teacher saw in me that I needed internal discipline and helped me join the United States Sea Cadets at the Philadelphia Naval Base. I learned about teamwork, personal pride, tolerance of others, and the value of an extended family. I was able to travel across the country, sail boats on the ocean, and learn about myself as a developing young man.
A teacher saw things in me and helped me not to be involved in crime, smoking, and taking drugs. A teacher encouraged me to work, to be a role model for my brother and sister, and to prepare me for college when it was my time. Because of all this, I became a teacher to help boys and girls who were just like me, to help them see the best in themselves, to overcome fears and anxiety they may have from day to day, and to know there was someone who cared, respected them, and had faith in them. I wanted to be that teacher, as a teacher was that way for me.
A teacher for 27 years, William Jackson teaches in Jacksonville, Florida.
I teach so that I can be an agent of change, either the flint that sparks the fire or the tinder that keeps the flame going.
I teach because I enjoy the look in a student’s eyes when they realize that they can be successful.
I teach because I believe in an education system that supports the importance of teaching the whole child.
I teach so that I can provide students with at least one place in the world where they feel protected, loved and cared for.
I teach so that I can help students feel as if all their basic needs are being met.
I teach, because in doing so, I know that I am fulfilling the age-old adage that admonished: Each One Teach One.
And so, I teach.
A teacher for 11 years, Angela Normand currently teaches in Brentwood, CA.