March 27, 2021
When Wendell and I left Ms. Perkins’ classroom, I thought “It is POSSIBLE!” My heart was full and I just wanted to shout this for all of Las Vegas to know!
Now let’s backtrack a little. At the end of February, almost one year after school buildings closed, Wendell Blaylock (one of TFA LV Board Members) and I visited Greer Perkins’ 1st Grade Math and Science class at Lomie G. Heard Elementary School. Even though the visit could not be in person, Wendell fulfilled an important civic duty to share his family story of resilience and achievement with our students, like he has been doing for over 10 years, especially during Black History Month. His father was a Tuskegee Airman and both Wendell and many of his family members have led a life of service to our nation.
We paired Wendell and Greer because she identifies as a steward of the revolutionary educational movement that encourages and pushes others to develop relationships and take stands for Black students in their communities. She serves to promote the educational needs of Black students by supporting any and all allies in the production of equitable access to exceptional educational resources, experiences and opportunities. Like Wendell and his family, she has shown incredible resilience and achievement at doing this.
After his presentation, we stayed with Greer to learn more about her and her students. She joined Teach For America Las Vegas in 2010 and has been teaching here since then. Although She is originally from East Chicago, by the time her corps experience was over, her connection with her students and families compelled her to stay. During our time together we got to understand a little bit more about her approach to educational equity. I learned from Greer that she has high standards for herself and her students. In her eyes, all of her students are incredibly capable, creative and full of potential and she sets the bar high for them because she knows that they can get there. By the questions and engagement we had just experienced from her students a few minutes earlier, we knew that the culture in her classroom was one that fostered joy, trust, strong human connection and curiosity. We were then delighted to see some of the quiet advanced projects from her students. One student created a camel backpack as a project to solve a living organism problem using the engineering and design process! She also shared spaghetti structures that make me feel like our next big architect will come from Las Vegas! Greer will continue to show us what's possible as she finished her administrative degree at Sierra Nevada College this year and is working on building "Achievement Now," a social venture that hopes to provide wellness resources for Black and brown children."
The 2020-2021 school year has been hard for our students, their families and our teachers. Because of the pandemic, many have chosen to lower the bar, and I understand that it is coming from a place of kindness, of not wanting to add another burden for our community. But Greer has shown us that it is possible to be kind and keep a high bar of our students. She has proven that by the end of the day our students can experience joy while growing academically.