Dr. Enid Lagesse taught my required class on Liberation Theology my sophomore year of college, and I learned how radical religion could be. ~John Blair
I write for a music review site and was given permission to highlight the #MyBlackTeacher campaign as part of it. So I searched for a song that would work. Then FKA twigs, a former dance teacher, released a video. Little did I know, when starting my research for the piece. that twigs had a huge impact on T-Pain. Check out the review as well as T-Pain's latest song, which shows the effect twigs had on T-Pain's life.
I really thought Mrs. Robinson didn't like me. She was one of these old-school teachers who cut her teeth in the segregated schools of Jim Crow North Carolina. True to the lore of the day, many educators in those all-black institutions lived in and were highly respected by the local community. Teaching was one of the few professional options available for African Americans, and those educators were determined to reveal the potential of their students despite the substandard materials, facilities, and resources they had on hand.
Fast forward thirty years to the first day of our second grade class: Mrs. Robinson went around the room - which I remember as warm, brightly lit, and full of colorful posters - introducing her 25 charges to one another. She referred to other relatives of ours whom she'd previously taught: "I used to teach Cedric's uncle." Oh nooo. That meant she knew our family! And indeed she did. Seems like she had regular conversations with my mother. Mrs. Robinson didn't appreciate some of my boyhood flair, like my constant low-key humming and my steady giggles at the shenanigans of my buddy Greg (he and I are still friends to this day). But true to her training, Mrs. Robinson saw my potential and worked to nurture my strengths. She made me read aloud (because I was a good reader) to practice my diction and verbal skills. She made me work hard at spelling (because of her, even now I can spell "beautiful" and "kitchen" without transposing letters). She encouraged my mother to have me tested for the gifted student program, in which I enrolled in the third grade. And she absolutely would not tolerate my incessant talking, even relegating me to a back corner desk when I couldn't control my blabbing.
Wherever she is now, Mrs. Robinson might be surprised to learn how she impacted me most - travel. I clearly remember how we studied the globe, how she told us stories about her travels to Brazil (at the time I didn't know of any black people who had traveled abroad), and how we each had to do an oral report about another nation. Sweden was my assignment. After my mother caught me trying to cut pictures out of our home encyclopedia, she hustled me to the travel agency across the street from the main branch of the public library, where a kind and patient travel agent shared brochures and stories about Stockholm, Lapland, the Baltic Sea, Vikings, and the royal family. I proudly carried my report to school and showed off my crayoned turquoise and lemon yellow flag, along with the assorted pictures safely cut and glued from travel brochures. Mrs. Robinson was very proud of me. Not only was this the genesis of high academic standards (defintely reinforced at home), but my travel bug was also born in her second grade class - and I've now been to six continents, including twice to Brazil!
I don't recall seeing Mrs. Robinson after I left elementary school, but I hope that she saw my trajectory and felt some degree of satisfaction that she helped to set a humming, curious, chatty little boy on a path to greater learning, achievement, and adventures. Thank you, Mrs. Robinson!
Cedric Brown is a community investor and artist who also started an annual award that assists black youth with personal development goals
My teacher would be Dr. Robert Weems Jr. He was my first Black male teacher in my life and was very inspiring. His knowledge of Black History was amazing and inspired me to learn more about my history. I wanted to make sure that I did well in his class and didn't want to disappoint him. ~Nathan Stephens
My 6th grade English teacher, Mrs. Barnes, taught me how to write multi-paragraph essays in different genres. It sounds mundane, but those writing skills have carried me all the way through my PhD program. She was the only Black teacher I had until college! ~Ingrid O'Brien
Mrs. Presley's third grade class in Waukegan, Illinois was one of the Best at Whittier Elementary, I will never forget you! Rest in Peace, sweet Spirit~~ #dayumbreastcancer ~Carolyn Ki
From Mrs. Callen Jack in kindergarten at my small, rural, public K-12 school to Dr. Joy Gayles in both my M.S. & Ph.D. programs at public research universities, #MyBlackTeacher had a huge impact on my formal education & my professional pursuits in the field of education. I cannot thank these women enough! ~Sonja Ardoin
My Black teacher was an absence, a wish and a dream. There were no Black teachers where I grew up in Upstate Ny. As one of the few Black students there, who felt alone and alienated in some ways. I only knew my Black teacher as an unsatisfied hunger that ate away at my stomach. ~Dirk Tillotson
I consider Marva Collins to be the teacher of all teachers. It was when I first read her book "The Marva Collins Way" that I decided that my calling in life was to teach. While we only met once, her ideas and her passion--her brilliant mind and warm heart--have always guided me, and continue to do so presently. Today, when I teach teachers, I present Marva Collins as the role model, the archetype, of the great teacher who day in and day out is making our world a better place.
Tal Ben-Shahar is an influential author and lecturer. He taught two of the largest classes in Harvard University’s history, Positive Psychology and The Psychology of Leadership.
Today I want to honor the creative spirit of Mr. Adam Artis! I've known many wonderful black teachers, but Mr. Artis made me WANT to be an educator, an actor, an activist, and a writer. (And showed me that I could be all of those things, and more!)
I was a white kid bused into a predominately black school in the early, often contentious, days of desegregation in the Boston Public Schools. Mr. Artis was a smart, kind, and thoughtful teacher - the kind of person that I wish every kid had the opportunity to know.
He was THE 5th grade teacher who everyone wanted for their final year in elementary school. (For instance, in second grade, I remember wearing my Alice in Wonderland dress for more than a week because his class was putting on their version of Alice in Wonderland, and I wanted to be a part of it!)
When I was finally in his class, I remember laughing a lot in his classroom while we learned. Feminism (or "Women's Lib" as we called it) was a BIG deal in the 1980s. A bunch of us girls were always writing feminist slogans up on the board to see how he would react. He engaged us in these activist inspirations, and included our passion for these themes in the plays he wrote.
When Mr. Artis wrote a play for us in my 5th grade year, he called me at home to ask if I would play the few "adult" role. I will never forget how honored I felt by that phone call. It was an example of how thoughtful he was, and how aware he was of each of his students strengths and needs. (I think he knew I would be mortified if he's asked me at school!)
I am sad to say that I haven't been back to visit Mr. Artis, and can't find much on the internet about him. But everything I have found echoes my own experience of pure magic in that most golden of years. Thank you for your creative, loving inspiration Mr. Artis! I will never forget you, and I absolutely know that I am an an educator, activist, writer, and actor because of you.
Melita Noel is the Executive Director of Censored2Celebrated