Remembering Clementine

Clementine SkinnerIt seems fitting during Black History Month to honor and remember Dr. Clementine A. Skinner (1916–2006), KDP’s first African-American president. She served from 1976-1978.

Clementine was born in Birmingham, Ala., the daughter of John and Alice McConico. Her family relocated to Chicago during the Great Northern Migration, partly due to controversy caused by her father’s involvement in the civil rights movement.  In Chicago, her father owned McConico’s Book and Magazine store, which housed and sold publications by and about African Americans.

Beyond being an academic and trailblazing Kadelpian, she was instrumental in preserving and sharing African-American history, a passion which was influenced largely by her experience at her father’s bookstore. Skinner was a close friend and contemporary of the founder of the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History (ASALH), Dr. Carter G. Woodson, who is credited with creating the celebration that evolved into Black History Month in 1926.

As I was researching her life, I came across a CNN article from Feb. 14, 1996, 18 years ago today. The article quoted a then 80-year-old Skinner as a representative from the ASALH. In that article, Skinner said, “We never sat around and spent all our time worrying about being segregated…We worked for integration constantly in all areas of society.”

Her life’s legacy illustrates that quote perfectly. After she graduated high school, Clementine went to work at Woolworth’s, where she worked her way from salesclerk to floor manager and eventually buyer, the first African American to be promoted to this position. She began using her position to create change and was instrumental in getting items like cosmetics and hosieries for women of color. Her letters to the corporate offices also impacted the company’s employment practices as they related to minorities.

After becoming a mother and serving in the First Women’s Army Corps, she began her college career in 1953 at the age of 41. She received an associate’s degree in 1959. She then enrolled in Chicago Teachers College—now known as Chicago State University—and received a bachelor’s degree in education in 1960 (she was initiated into Theta Rho Chapter that year) and a master’s degree in1963.

In 1976, the same year she became KDP president, Clementine earned an Ed.D from Nova University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. She was 60 years old.

We are so proud to have had Dr. Clementine Skinner as a member, past president, and distinguished educator, and we celebrate and honor her during Black History Month.

We Are Fully Aware That We Are Facing a “Global Learning Crisis”

But What Are We, As Americans, Truly Doing To Solve Our Own Education Crisis?

Shortly before the 2019 International Youth Day, the United Nations General Secretary, Mr. Guterres, stated that the world is currently facing a “learning crisis.” The UN Chief also mentioned how pivotal it is for students to not only learn, “but to learn how to learn.”

One of the goals of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is to ensure that all students have access to an inclusive and equitable education.

As a first-year teacher and sociology of education graduate student, I believe that before we can solve our “global learning crisis,” we must acknowledge that in our very own backyard, here in the United States, our public education system is failing our students.

In fact, in his book, City Schools and the American Dream: Reclaiming the Promise of Public Education, Dr. Pedro Noguera expresses how as a nation, we are aware that our public education system is failing our children and youth. Yet, very little is being done to ensure that our students receive an inclusive, equitable, and high-quality education.

For that reason, as a first-year third-grade language arts and social studies teacher in Newark, New Jersey, I agree with Dr. Noguera, “we can’t wait for permission to do what’s right.”  We simply cannot wait for our elected officials to establish equitable policies, nor can we wait for the “political climate to be right.” Real change happens from below.

With that being said, come September, in my third-grade classroom, my top priority will be to ensure that I provide my students with a high-quality education. An education that will enable them to challenge and enhance not only their thinking, but the thinking of their fellow classmates and teachers as well.

When we provide students with the necessary skills, they are given the opportunity to make a difference in their world.

To end, I urge all teachers, specifically all first-year teachers “to not wait for permission,” as per real change can certainly occur in their very own classrooms.

Kevin Cataldo

Hi, my name is Kevin Cataldo, and I’m a recent graduate of Felician University in New Jersey. I was the chapter president of the Alpha Zeta Rho Chapter of KDP on campus. I’m also a representative of KDP to the United Nations, as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), and I am at currently a graduate student at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Thinking Critically About Our Current Education System

Hi, my name is Kevin Cataldo, and I’m a recent graduate of Felician University in New Jersey. I was the chapter president of the Alpha Zeta Rho Chapter of KDP on campus. I’m also a representative of KDP to the United Nations, as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), and I am at currently a graduate student at Teachers College, Columbia University.

On July 15, 2019, Teachers College welcomed K–12 educators and all other stakeholders from across the country and around the world to its 4th Annual Reimagining Education Summer Institute (RESI).

During the Institute, participants got the opportunity to critically think about our current education system.

In fact, during Day 1, the participants were asked to keep the following questions in mind: Why must we “reimagine” education here in the United States? The remaining 3 days focused heavily on the following: (a) racial and cultural literacy, (b) equity pedagogy, and (c) culturally sustaining leadership.

Here I am with Dr. Ladson Billings!

This year’s keynote address was delivered in an eloquent, powerful, and thought-provoking manner by Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings, a KDP Laureate.

She is considered a pioneer of culturally relevant teaching, a pivotal area of study in education that I hope to learn more about as I continue my graduate studies at Teachers College.

The Institute was extra special for me this year, as this was my first time participating in it. I also was a dialogue session co-facilitator.

During the 4 days, my co-facilitators and I provided K–12 educators and other stakeholders with a brave space to share their thoughts, feelings, concerns, and knowledge about our education system. As a soon-to-be first-year third-grade language arts and social studies teacher in Newark, New Jersey, the Institute provided me with hope that I have the power to “reimagine” our education system and truly make a difference in the lives of my students.

At the conclusion of the Institute, both educators and stakeholders were asked to return to their respective school communities with a crucial question in mind: “What Now?”

In other words, what will I do to bring equity pedagogy into my school community?

Today more than ever before, the United States and the world must join forces and “reimagine” education, especially since one’s society depends heavily on an educated citizenry.

Furthermore, as a member of Kappa Delta Pi, International Honor Society in Education, and as one of its UN Youth Representatives for the upcoming 2019–2020 academic school year, my goal is to raise awareness about this unique Institute at the world stage—at the United Nations Headquarters.

To end, raising such awareness can be beneficial not only to educators, but to other stakeholders within the United Nations as well.

Why? Think about it: The goal of the Institute is to help educators realize how vital it is for schools and stakeholders to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” (SDG 4: Quality Education).

Teachers Are So Much More Than Teachers

Hi, I’m Katelynd Dreger. This is #WhyITeach.

Simply put, I am in it for the kids.

I go to school each day knowing that my kids need me. I am not just a teacher; I am a safe person, I am a parent, I am a counselor, I am a nurse. I enjoy helping others.

After graduating with my BA in Elementary Education, I spent a year and a half substitute teaching. I enjoyed being able to help so many kids. Some days it was obvious that I was able to help a kid, or maybe two, beyond simply teaching and filling the role of ‘teacher’ for the day. While on other days, it wasn’t so clear.

I eventually moved to Southwest Kansas to teach first grade. I was amazed that I had to teach my students to put toilet paper in the toilet and flush it because some of them did not have working toilets at home. This was also my first experience with a large number of students learning to speak English as a second language. While in Kansas, I made some strides with many students, which was incredibly rewarding.

One student, with whom I had a strong connection, required my help after he had gone to second grade, and his teacher passed away in the fall. He was a very loving and caring kid, so this hit him pretty hard. His mom came to me when he started acting out at school. He and I spent some time together during my planning period the following day. We talked about what was bothering him; we cried together, and we read a favorite story. Things started going better for him after that.

I know I am not a magician. But I also know how much relationships matter. Taking time to listen matters.

Another student I had while in Kansas struggled with his anger and was a reluctant reader. We were able to work on a system together to help him control his anger. Further, through an author study on Ezra Jack Keats, I was able to get him interested in reading. I’m not sure if it was the activities we did with the books or if it was just the right thing for him or a combination. He was particularly enamored with “Peter’s Chair.” His mom shared that they had that book at home and he’s never been interested in it. Sometimes it’s all about timing. Sometimes it’s all about the relationship. Sometimes it’s both.

After teaching in Kansas, I moved back to Southwest Michigan where I taught in a small private school for a few years. While there, I had a student who moved to Michigan from out of state when his father died in a car accident. On top of all of the emotional baggage he was carrying, he also struggled to be understood due to speech troubles. Some days, he needed extra love. Some days, he needed space and a chance to sit at our calm down spot (a classroom staple, inspired by him). Some days, he needed a break from the classroom. It was challenging every day to know which of these he needed, but it was so rewarding to know when we got it right.

Now, I am in a public school again. My kids need me every day. Many of them are going through life in ways that 8-year-old should not have to.

I’ve found that relationships are critical in all settings, but they mean so much more to the learners in my current environment.

Finally, while my title is classroom TEACHER, I am so much more than that. I teach for many reasons.

  • I teach to help kids learn to read and do math.
  • I teach to help kids learn to be successful citizens.
  • I teach to help kids learn to be true to themselves.
  • I teach to help kids through their problems, both at home and at school.
  • I teach to make a difference in the lives of kids.
  • I teach to make a difference in my community.
  • I teach to make a difference in my state.
  • I teach to make a difference in my country.
  • I teach to make a difference in the world.

Connect with me on KDP’s Educator Learning Network!

Teaching Is An Expression Of My Authentic Self

Hi, I’m Mischelle Duranleau. This is #WhyITeach.

The question, “Why do you teach?” is still one that makes me pause even after 20 years as a classroom instructor.

I teach because I must. This is my best answer.

As an elective teacher in a small high school, I wear many hats. I have taught every level and form of art common in schools, psychology, sociology, health. and even home economics. No matter the specific subject and projects, I am blessed to teach much more than that. I teach students to believe in themselves, to celebrate failure, to build relationships that have a lasting impression.

It is difficult to draw one story from my memory banks that stands out as the pivotal “Aha!” moment. In twenty years, I have chosen to be open and honest with my students so that they could see how to face challenges with integrity and grit.

My true purpose is to teach the skills of embracing uncertainty and learning to be brave. When I was diagnosed with stage two, uterine sarcoma, my students shared in the emotional and physical transformation which was chemotherapy. Even though I was exhausted, bald, and frail, I made the choice to continue teaching during treatments. If I am to be completely honest, my students gave me their strength when I felt empty.

We talked openly about courage, fear, and embracing life just as it shows up.

Several years later, my school was rocked by the unexpected death of a very popular senior student months before he was supposed to graduate. His suicide rocked me to my knees. I questioned, “Was my presence of any value? Was I really making a difference?” The answer was clear when I came into the building the next day to a classroom full of students looking to me to help them navigate the unimaginable.

At that moment, I knew that teaching was more than information delivery.

Teaching is the courage to care, cry, and be human with my students. I must teach hope, integrity, and the skills needed to know that life will continue. To impart the ability to perceive and rise above to each occasion, knowing that we are in this together.

My room is a place of belonging, is safe to fail, feel vulnerable and to face life’s challenges with bravery.

I teach because it is an expression of my authentic self, essential as breathing.

Connect with me on KDP’s Educator Learning Network!

Paying It Forward: Celebrating The Impact Of Teachers On Me

Hi, I’m Jasmine Bush. This is #WhyITeach.

Currently, I am the seventh and eighth grade science teacher at Esperanza Charter School within New Orleans, Louisiana.

I teach because it is truly my passion! I am in love with instilling knowledge, confidence, and overall motivation within my kids.

I teach because of the great impact my teachers had on my life. My teachers were more than teachers; they filled the spaces left unfulfilled in my homelife, and that helped me grow into who I am today.

I teach because I feel as if it’s something that I am made to do. The work is hard and not free from stress, but I do it for our future.

I teach because it’s truly who I am; I am not just a teacher. I often act as a caregiver, social worker, parent, mentor, therapist, etc. I teach in an urban setting and my students are faced with many opportunity gaps that interfere with their academic success. I teach because I can offer a bridge for those students to overcome those gaps. I plan lessons that expose my kids to many different experiences. I teach my kids and my kids also teach me. We are together in this as a team!

I teach because I truly care about and respect offering students quality education no matter their location or economic status. I grew up in a rural small city in southwest Georgia where resources were limited. Most students went to school, graduated, and went back to work on the family farm. My teachers gave me the notion and confidence to dream bigger and that I could achieve whatever goals I aspired. I teach so I can offer these ideas, notions, and goals to my children who are also faced with the idea that they can’t reach their goals because of who they are or where they live.

I am a first-generation college graduate, and I am completing my Masters in Teaching on May 11th.

So why do I teach?

I teach because I am an example of the outcome of having compassionate, understanding, confident, and knowledgeable teachers like me can offer in developing minds to facilitate student achievement and success in life.

Connect with me on KDP’s Educator Learning Network!

Growing Up, I Needed Someone To Tell Me It Was Going To Be Okay. Now, I Get To Be That Person

Hi, I’m Joshua Case. This is #WhyITeach.

As a child, I was diagnosed early on with both ADHD and Aspergers Syndrome. The Aspergers diagnosis was later changed to PDD-NOS, and I still suffer from both as an adult.

Today, as a 28 year old married man, I still struggle to keep my composure at loud social situations such as banquets, and my wife often has to repeat anything she tells me.

It’s hard to even sit down for a video game or a movie, no matter how much interest I have.

However, it could have been much worse.

I still remember every milestone as I got older. At age 12, I watched my first fireworks without running away. At age 14, I made the first friend that I kept for more than a year or two. At age 18, I had my first romantic relationship. At age 20, after confiding in a friend about my disabilities, they told me they could never tell. And at age 24, defying expectations, I earned an MAT and started teaching. This was the moment where I felt like a real civilized human for the first time, and I earned that MAT so I could help other children feel the same.

Today, I have a wide array of experiences, which I have tried to use in order to achieve that goal.

I started as a middle school science teacher in a high-needs school, where 99% of students were eligible for free lunch. Despite my difficulties growing up, I recognize my privilege as a white, Jewish boy from one of the best school districts in the state. This teaching placement was an adjustment.

But in each student, I saw potential and knew I was drawn to that location to play a role. I became as much of a counselor as I was a teacher and was able to apply what I’ve learned in my own situation(s) to help them succeed in a world that worked against them.

Some of them keep in touch, telling me how I prepared them well for high school and the goals they have for life.

Today, I am a special education teacher. I still teach pull-out environmental science classes and plug into a variety of subjects, but my focus is on working with students like me. Many of my students have the same disabilities as me, some have others, but they’re all beneficiaries of my support. I feel proud of each and every one of them for all of their milestones—showing up to class, turning in an assignment on time, opening up to someone, and whatever else they struggle to accomplish.

I teach because, when I was growing up, I needed someone like me to tell me I was okay. Now I get to be that person.

Connect with me on KDP’s Educator Learning Network!