The importance of education cannot be overstated. A proper education can mean the difference between having a fruitful life and living on the fringes of society. For this reason, the individuals who are responsible for educating our children should be passionate about making sure students have the skills they need to be productive citizens. Black students and educators are fighting an uphill battle with the lack of funding and disparity that exists in the system. Rolling out understands the challenges that exist when it comes to the education of Black children. We know the children are our future and it is for this reason that we honor those who are passionate about teaching our children and are passionate about education.
Today, we feature Nakisha Lee, who has worked in the Chicago Public School System as a teacher and recently in downstate Illinois as the dean of Galesburg High School. We talked to her about the importance of being an educator and why it is important for children to see people who look like them in positions of power.
Favorite quote from an African American: “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education.” -Martin Luther King Jr.
Why did you become a dean?
I became a dean because I aspire to be a part of an administration team where I can implement and create change within a school setting.
Why is it important to see more Black faces in leadership positions in our schools?
It is very important to see more Black faces in leadership positions within schools or any other organization because it develops character and purpose for others. Being in Galesburg, there is no existence of color in leadership besides myself. If we can’t see that we exist in the world, we lose hope, which, in turn, [hurts our ability] to identify with our purpose.
The approach to learning and teaching has changed over the years. What would you say have been the biggest changes and how have you adjusted?
The biggest change for me has been the elimination of true phonics. Students do not like to read, which means they won’t understand a word or be able to pronounce them correctly. Being in education is a learning experience by itself. What I have done is allowed real-life situations into my classroom. If you bring something that the students are interested in, it opens the door for you to start discussions and bring in the lesson in a matter where they wouldn’t know the objective has changed but they are still learning. I use business articles, websites, magazines and I have a “Word of the Day.” The Word of the Day consists of the students’ usage of new words. They are to define, write a meaningful sentence and name the part of speech. It will enhance the student’s vocabulary and create a better understanding of words.
Talk about your leadership style. What do you hope to accomplish?
I am more of a facilitator. I believe that everyone has a voice. We can agree to disagree. I do not like micromanaging but I will lend a hand. I am placed in the leadership position to build other leaders. Being a facilitator allows students, faculty, and staff to become more comfortable and trust their leader. It allows them the opportunity to become more confident in their own learning experiences as there teaching styles as well, which is my accomplished goal.
What historic African American figure has inspired you the most and why?
Mr. Thurgood Marshall has inspired me the most. He inspires me because he took a risk as a Black lawyer to fight for the equal rights of education for all of us. He was a part of our United States Supreme Court, which also inspires me. Because of Mr. Marshall, one day I plan on becoming the Secretary of Education for whoever may be president during that time. Mr. Marshall’s work has allowed so many doors to be open. Because of the Brown v. Board of Education case, I will always cherish being able to receive the education I have been granted.
If you were the Secretary of Education what would you do to enhance the opportunity afforded to students across the country?
As the head of the department, I would start off with just a few things:
- Implementation of a meaningful or productive school-wide plan (depending on the need of the country)
- Creation of plans that allows the parents to become more active and productive in their child’s education (Saturday Classes for instance).
- Change the dynamics of our Special Education programs
- Create a system that the school learning base will be set up according to the dynamics of the city or state. For instance, Detroit was the home of automotive manufacturing companies, we can create schools that involved that craft to better our students to enter the workforce a little easier.
- More emphasis on Career and Technical Education (C.T.E.) We all know unfortunately everyone will not attend college. Let’s provide more trades for our communities.
- Lastly, cut down all of these standardized testings. There are other ways to assess growth.
What can parents do to assist in the development and success of their children?
Parents can be more involved in their child’s education experience by becoming more interested. I would like to see more parents at teacher meetings, open houses, and participating in student activities. It would also be great to have those discussions on how we all can help their child in the transition from grade school to high school on to college.
Name two things a student can do to become successful?
Two things students can do to become more successful are:
- Believe in you, you are in charge of your own destiny.
- We can trust our students. Our students have lost trust in the system and us. Sometimes they feel as if we are not for them, but what they don’t realize is that we live and breathe for them.
What words of encouragement do you have for those in your profession?
My words of encouragement would be to remind yourself why you choose this career path. You were born for this. Teaching is in your heart, it’s your passion. The days will get rough and challenging, but when you see the fruit of your labor blossom into successful, productive citizens, you will remain on the course. Do not look for any accolades. They come when you least expect it. Lastly always remember that there are only certain people in the world who were chosen for this career and that person is you.