My daughter, a soon-to-be PPS eighth-grader, has had only one black teacher. This makes me sad because black teachers and principals played a central role in my education. I went to school at East Hills Elementary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In the 1980s, many white parents bused their kids to black schools.
My elementary Principal was Mr. Richard Nicklos. As a first-grader, I remember his kindness when I was sent to his office for fighting a kid who teased me about my freckles. At my fifth grade graduation, he surprised me with The Principal’s Award—June 7, 1985, same day that Goonies was released–my mom cried proud tears. My second-grade teacher, Ms. Garret, saw my horrible handwriting and recommended that my parents teach me how to type. By fourth grade, I was typing all of my written assignments.
In middle school, Dr. Lightfoot (Dean of Students), Ms. Qualls (Language Arts), Dr. Holmes (PE, Health, and Soccer Coach), and Mr. Murray (Science) improved my writing, my sportsmanship, and my thinking.
In high school, Mr. Roebuck would read aloud any notes he caught being passed in his Social Studies class. Ms. Coates taught algebra 2 to me and other struggling sophomores. My principal Mr. Fisher shaped generations of Pittsburgh students. In fact, Nobel Prize winner, Frances Arnold, saved a note he sent to her parents warning about her expulsion for skipping class.
At Ohio University, Dr. Frank Henderson, a brilliant political science professor, taught political theory with zest and gusto. He challenged convention, incited classroom debates, and had really hard tests. He encouraged me to spend my Junior year abroad and wrote a letter of recommendation for my application to study in Wales.
The teachers I had growing up shaped and challenged my thinking. In college, I took courses in Black Political Thought and Black Media to challenge my intellect and expand my perspective.
PPS can do better. If elected, it is my goal to get more black teachers in our schools.