On December 21, 1990 I bought a future teacher into the world. Of course. I had no clue at the time of what was in store for her. And, through the years, as she was deciding which direction she should head in, I must honestly say the last thing I ever encouraged her to do was teach. Like so many others, I equated success for my children with having a professional degree. And, I, selfishly, wanted to be able to say my daughter is a “doctor, lawyer, …”. Through my career and personal experiences, I have come to truly value the extremely important role that educators play in our lives.
Recently, I was having a conversation with some friends. As we were talking, they mentioned the stellar education my daughter had been afforded at Spelman College, and, all of the opportunities that she had been given to explore and see the world. They then went on to allude to the fact that, after all of that, I must be disappointed that she is, now back in Bertie County, teaching. Shocked, but slow on the quick come backs, I sat there and let the sting sink in.
Having had a few months to think about that conversation, I realize it is precisely that mindset that causes communities like mine to fail. My county, Bertie County, is identified as a Tier 1 county in North Carolina. This means that we are one of the most economically distressed counties in the state. 75% of the public schools in Bertie County are identified as low performing schools, and, less than 45% of 3rd graders in Bertie County Schools are proficient in reading.
The reality is, the educators in my community, are challenged with the task of teaching and overcoming the negative impact that poverty has on our children in order to get them to perform at the same level of proficiency as children who; have the benefit of well-balanced meals on a daily basis, have consistent heat and electricity in their homes, have clothing that is suitable for cold weather, have parents that are educated and can provide that extra support that educators need.
The opportunities that my daughter has been afforded in places like Oprah Winfrey’s Leadership Academy have prepared her to come back and contribute, in a positive way, to our community. Why should those opportunities be shared anywhere else?
My daughter is an excellent, passionate educator that is committed to seeing her children succeed. When we talk, she is full of stories about her children and all of the things that go on from day to day in her classroom. She is the teacher that spends time with her students outside of the classroom. She is the teacher that brings a child home for a meal because she is concerned that the child may be hungry. She is the teacher that comforts a child who is sick while others run in fear. She is the teacher that takes warm clothing to her children in need. She is the teacher that takes extra treats to her class to put a smile on their face. More importantly, she is the teacher that pushes her children to reach their full potential. She is the teacher that believes in the possibilities.
So, why not Bertie County? Don’t you think we deserve her here? I certainly do.
**This post is dedicated to the educator that I gave to the world, and, all of those other educators that are fighting for our children. I love you Sierra Stokes! You make me very proud!