Interview By Shirley Martinez
What is your name, what role do you play in education, how long have you been in education?
My name comes with a family story. Legally it is Sir Harry Knight, it is my title. My grandfather was a fan of medieval, sort of a fascination with the King Author period and knights of the round table. My grandfather’s name was Arthur Knight and my dad’s name is Harry. It was fortunate for us that our last name was Knight. When I was younger my father was in the military, so we moved around like most kids in the military, you make friends and have experiences from all over, I attended Aragon Jr. High School, in Fountain, CO.
My first teaching experience was at a school in Newport News, Virginia. One of the things I learned is that it is important to have a mentor, this school was a predominately black school. This was practically in my back yard. I was now teaching friends I would go to school with tie and slacks on. I remember there was a student, and he asked me why I was wearing a tie to school? Was I going to a funeral? I told him no, and that this is how I come to work. I thought it was important to show respect for myself and get down to the business of learning.
I have been at Fountain Fort Carson School system for twenty-three years and a math teacher for 18 of those years. I see myself as an example that someone from our neighborhood can do this. I was the varsity girls’ basketball coach for 18 years and I have been a track coach for 25 years.
Why do you think education is important?
It is to give our students tools to go out in the real world to make educated decisions. Our job is to give them the tools so that they can think when they are on their own to make good decisions. Of course, Covid-19 has certainly put a wrench in education. Technology is what we do in education now. It is how we use that technology to help our kids that is the key.
The students themselves have not changed. Take a freshman this year and a freshman five years ago, they have the same issues, they are wide-eyed and fresh. Take a senior from five years ago to 2020, we did not have laptops then and now every kid has a laptop, everything is instantaneous. We all did not have cell phones, all students did not have cell phones, but now they do. We have teachers that know technology and we have some that are learning but still struggle. Teaching must be different and relatable to the kids. They might have more awareness about what them is around due to technology. Reading news on technology can be looked up on phones, but we still students that do not know what is in the news. If it is not on the latest app, they may never know what they have missed.
So, we must help our students through the new If they chose to use technology but that is up to the individual. Education is meant for gathering knowledge and then having that knowledge relate to lives. It is also the ability to apply it in this world and to know the value of life. Finally, it does not limit with self-education, there is no end for education, as in each stage of human life we learn something.
What do you love most about your role in education?
I like the relationships that I have built with students in front of me. I am a senior TAP leader (like a homeroom). I have had these kids since they were freshman, watched them grow up. I know that two of them have their driver’s licenses and one of them just got a job. There is an opportunity to build relationships and watch them grow. Being here in Fountain, on Thursday, I found out that I taught their dads. Little things like that is what I love about this role.
I coached a young lady and found out that I coached their mom. I am growing, and this has kept me in education. For me I grow every year. I am constantly in class during the summer and working on my PhD in education. For my 28 years. I am getting better at building relationships with students. I started off as a math teacher. Thought that is all I was supposed to do, come in teach math and go home. From the first school to my current school, a lot of my students and I feel that I am a role model and an example, not just a math teacher.
I see them five days out of the seven, they see me. Now this kid that lives on my street once he found out that we are neighbors, it changed our relationship I was more than just his teacher, he felt a different connection. He and I are the only ones that lived on the same street. I am more than just a teacher and coach. I can be a neighbor and be in church. They get to see me as a person, and I see them as individuals. We become a full person, and students build that relationship to become a full person as well.
What is the best advice you have received about impacting the education sector?
When…early on when I started to realize that I was more than a teacher, and in the neighborhood as a black man, I looked like them. Another teacher that was a veteran teacher and teaching 7 years more than me, he was telling me to slow down, that I could not save every single male student in my class. I could do more to be more efficient with one or two instead of trying to save them all. I took that to heart.
I would bring a different student for Thanksgiving (on post) dinner. Go would go back to Virginia every summer, a former student from Fountain connected with me and I would have them visit me at my in-laws in Virginia. I have always appreciated the position and in what I have then just being a teacher.
What advice would you give the younger generation about their education?
Easy one is that it is important. Again, a lot of students…we have students that come to school because they are supposed to. My role as a teacher is to give them the tools and information that is necessary to make decisions. Believe in them and take the time to help them understand that education is for their betterment. To choose their classes more wisely. We have the cookie cutter type of mentality. They have the choice to take swimming, and more individualized education. I had a student that wanted to be a cook, and I talked to him about how math can help him as a chef. Years later, I was at a restaurant and the waiter told me that my meal was compliments from the chef. The chef was one of my former students. I taught him how math was relevant, and he comped me my meal.
To parents I would say, talk to your student about school, and talk to your student’s teacher about the student. I wish the parents would attend the teach conferences. This also goes for the student that gets an A, they need for you to be involved as well. We can talk about them being not social or how good they are at helping others. The student is with that teacher five days during the week, and if that teacher is a coach you will see them as an athlete and as a student. We get to know them and have general conversation, what do you think, feel. We have kids that internalize a lot and they do not need to. Teachers and parents need to work together.
I teach and coach because I enjoy the feeling I get when I see my students learn and experience self fulfilment. As a kid I thought it was funny that cartoons would illustrate a character understanding an idea with an illuminated light bulb over their head. I remember the first time I saw this as a teacher. It was early in my first year while I was helping a student with a math concept that he just couldn’t grasp. After a few more examples I saw that light bulb, I saw the smile and most of all I saw the confidence in this young man that wasn’t there just a few minutes before. This feeling has guided me through 27 years as an educator. Each and every day I strive to help students turn on their “light bulbs”.