Written by Talisa Caldwell
What is your role as an educator and how long have you been doing it for?
I teach government, social studies and ethnic studies, and I am the head Girls Basketball coach. This year, my ethnic studies class will be replaced with sociology. I am going on my eighth year of teaching.
Why do you think what you do as an educator is important?
I’ve been living here for about thirteen years, and for the first five I was on a military base. I didn’t know much about what was going on outside of those gates, and pretty much just focused on my duties. When the Air Force cut my job, I was forced to go outside the gate and find employment. I saw the population and I thought to myself, “How can I tap in and help the people of Colorado Springs broaden their horizon?” I wanted to help expose people to more than the area of their comfort zone.
What do you love most about what you do?
I love that students get to be educated by someone that looks like them, a person of color. That’s the biggest thing for me. And when it comes to the people that I don’t look like, I love when they say thank you, because they’ve never had a person of color to teach them. In Colorado, we are a huge minority, so it is great to give that opportunity to the students.
What is the best advice you ever received about your impact on education?
My colleagues always tell me, “You have it,” and when I ask them what they mean by “it,” I’ve been told that it’s the way I build relationships and communicate with the students. For twelve years I worked in the youth programs in the Air Force, and that was a diverse group of people. Everyone wasn’t in the same bubble so you had to treat people differently based on how they work.
That’s where I learned that you have to reach kids before you can teach them. You have to build an actual relationship with them. Even though I am in an authoritative position, I’m not going to use that against my students. I listen to my students, and I learn from them certain aspects of life as well.
What advice do you have for future generations?
I would tell them to not settle, and always ask questions and do your own research. If you’re not satisfied with the answer you get, then search for a different one. In my classroom, I don’t teach out of a book, especially if I’m teaching history. When it comes to our history, the books tend to omit a lot of what really happened, and only put the version that they want us to know. I even have students go research what I said to make sure that I know what I’m talking about. Never just assume what someone says is right, find your own answers.