I am Friendship. I’ve been here a long time and I appreciate all of the opportunities that Friendship has given to me. I’m very proud to be the 2014 Friendship Teacher of the Year. It was definitely one of the highlights of my career. I think people should know that if you work hard, you will be rewarded and acknowledged.
What do you like about teaching at Friendship Collegiate?
This is my 17th year at Friendship Collegiate.
I’m a loyalist; I believe in being committed to people and a place. Collegiate has been home. I taught elementary school in P.G. County before I came to Friendship Collegiate Academy, but Friendship Collegiate Academy is where I started my high school teaching career and experienced the most growth. I even bought my house about five minutes away. I like this community and I like this building. We’ve had many school leaders over the years, but I have stayed at Friendship Collegiate, because for me it is all about supporting the people in this building, regardless of the changes and who comes and goes.
What are some student successes from over the years?
I’ve seen so many students go to college and finish college. Some of the first kids I taught here at Collegiate are now in their early 30s and I see them in the community. When they call me out by name, many times, they have to refresh my memory because of course at 28 or 30 years old, they don’t look the same as at 18 years old. I love hearing about their successes. I created a post on Facebook, asking my former students to comment about what they’ve been doing in life and how things are. It is great to hear their stories about the paths they’ve taken and when they share that they now realize that all of the messages we offered and taught them were true and helped to guide them. Of course they had to fully grasp the lessons via their own experiences. Teaching is hard work, but when you hear things like this, it makes it all worth it.
What do you like about teaching history?
In college, I was a social sciences major. I like teaching history, but I’m more of a government and politics dude. I’m a political junkie; The Presidential State of the Union address is like the superbowl for me. I love talking about how our government works, how it compares to the rest of the world, how we can be active participants in our government. I really enjoy history, and teaching students about what has happened in the past, so that we can look at our present and make better decisions so that we do not repeat the past. I love learning about different individuals through history. My favorite books to read are biographies and I enjoy sharing this information with my students; I want them to be well-educated, civic-minded and contribute to the community.
What strategies have you found to be most effective to inspire students to get active and involved with their community?
When you’re dealing with a senior class, many of them are turning 18 this year. Give them that one-page voter registration form. I do a whole unit on civic engagement. We talk about voting, petitioning, they even learn about going to a meeting with their Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners so they can learn about what is going on in their neighborhood.
I stress to them the importance of voting. I always love teaching during a presidential election year; there’s tons of content. Even in D.C. during a mayoral election year. I strive to get them to understand that small things like obeying the law, paying taxes are real life. This affects them.
For the students that plan on staying within D.C., I let them know that they’re the next generation, they need to know this stuff. They’re going to continue the progress of their communities.
What has it been like to oversee extracurricular activities this year?
You know what, I sometimes say doing this full-time might be a dream job. I really believe in after school time and in extended learning opportunities in the summer.
Since I’ve been with Friendship Public Charter School, there’s only been one summer during which I didn’t work. I’ve been a Summer School Principal and I was in charge of the Summer Bridge program at Collegiate for quite a few years. I’ve been doing summer enrichment for about the last ten years. I just really enjoy it.
Students pursue activities they enjoy–whether academic or athletic, robotics or urban video games, cheerleading, creative writing, or fashion. Whatever they want to do, I like seeing students participate in things that they enjoy.
After School programs are some of the hallmarks of our organization. I enjoy being able to offer opportunities for students to work with our staff who facilitate clubs. I love to see the end products of our summer enrichment programs – we have a showcase where students can show off everything they learned during the summer. It allows me to get away from the completely academic side, which I sometimes need a break from – especially during the summer time. Extracurricular activities are essential. Many students who participate in afterschool programs, attend tutoring or homework help. They fare better academically because it takes away that idle time, which they might use inappropriately and make bad decisions.
And, you go on a lot of trips with the kids. Can you talk about some of these trips that have been really eye-opening for the students?
We have a partnership with Arts and Humanities D.C. and many of the trips we plan are with that organization. I go through the catalogue and find trips that will fit my class and I find trips for my colleagues, as well. I’ll take my kids on any political or history-oriented trip. Also, every April we take a very powerful D.C. walking tour and learn about the different monuments. I prepare them, “We’re going to be walking A LOT and I don’t tire out.” We start at around 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. and go to the Lincoln, Vietnam, Korean, FDR, MLK memorials, we wave at the Jefferson Memorial across the river and we eat after that. Students really enjoy it every year. Even some students who may not demonstrate our core values daily tend to excel on these trips. Even having been born and raised in D.C., many students have never seen these monuments. I know teachers who haven’t seen them either. It’s an enjoyable trip and it’s always around the season when cherry blossoms are in full bloom. Students are able to learn a lot more when they have experiences outside of the building.
Students get a better appreciation for Washington. In my D.C. history class, we talk about Washington and we talk about how Washington is the home of our nation’s capital, our monuments, our memorials, where a lot of tourists visit. And then we talk about D.C. the neighborhoods, the culture, the vibe. Many students may understand D.C., but they don’t necessarily understand Washington and how we juggle having both a city government and a federal government within the same city.
Every year students complete a D.C. neighborhood project. They are given the opportunity to choose one of dozens of D.C. neighborhoods for a social studies fair. They research their neighborhood, find eight different landmarks, and take pictures at the landmarks so that I know they were actually there. They interview two residents of the neighborhood. They create presentations and write a paper on the neighborhood. It’s just amazing how the students are like, “Oh my gosh, I never knew this.” They see the history and learn about the many legends that have lived here in the places they walk past. I hear them spitting facts about it all the time.
What’s interesting as well is many students believe that their street is the whole neighborhood. They might learn for the first time about the neighborhood that they actually live in. They’re just building a better connection with their neighborhood and their city. Hopefully this encourages them to make their city better.
Is there anything that I haven’t asked you that you want to be sure to include in your spotlight?
I am Friendship. I’ve been here a long time and I appreciate all of the opportunities that Friendship has given to me. I’m very proud to be the 2014 Friendship Teacher of the Year. It was definitely one of the highlights of my career. I think people should know that if you work hard, you will be rewarded and acknowledged. Now, I am a veteran in the game and I’ve definitely taken on a mentorship role for a lot of teachers. Whether they are in my social studies department, novice to the profession, or novice to FPCS. At this point, I am the most veteran teacher in this building. I haven’t always taught; I’ve been a vice principal for a few years as well and a few other roles. So, now I’m in a new phase of helping others within this organization.
Is there a fun fact you’d like to share?
I think a lot of people know that I’m a world traveler. Tied into my role as a history teacher is my love of travel. Recently I went to Sri Lanka, India, and Hong Kong. During the last five years, I’ve been to Thailand, South Africa, Colombia, Belize, Qatar, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, France, Italy, England. There’s more, I just can’t think of them. I love traveling. I expand my world knowledge. When I go to these places, I’m not just with the tourists. In India, we had dinner with our tuk tuk driver. I like having these authentic experiences. Seeing the beauty of their culture and the love that a lot of people in these other places of the world have. I’m continuously learning all the time.
Another fun fact is that I have finished all of courses for my doctorate degree in educational administration and leadership from Bowie State University and am currently completing my dissertation.