We spoke with teachers, principals, and other educators—as well as their students—for insight into the importance of representation in the classroom.
February 25, 2020
Credo Djedje - San Antonio '17
Representation with Professionals and Mentors of Color
“Thinking back to when I was a student… I was grateful to have many Black teachers, mostly female. I was lucky enough to grow up in a predominately Black area. Many Black kids don’t have that. That being said, I think it's about students seeing someone that looks like them and recognizing that this person looks like me, therefore, they can understand some of my issues, I can talk to them and they can relate to what I’m going through and feeling. Through the Brotherhood Summit, we bring Black professionals and experts in their fields/occupations together to teach our students and show the different opportunities that are available to them—what is possible.”
Learn more about Credo Djedje and the Brotherhood Summit.
Jarrell & Moe - 11th Grade Students of Credo Djedje
“Throughout my life, as a student, I didn’t have the opportunity that [my teacher] Mr. Djedje had, so when I was faced with problems or racial slurs, I didn’t have many people to turn to or talk to. My teachers gave me advice but it didn’t really ‘click’, because they didn’t experience the same feeling that I had. It’s important to have Black teachers as well as Black students around you so that you have someone that you can go to and feel comfortable with.” -Jarrell
“I have never been a science person, but with Mr. Djedje, we all pay attention and want to learn more. We feel like we can relate to him. It’s super important, and it’s made me feel more comfortable to discuss certain issues, especially of race because you know where they are coming from and they know where you are coming from. You have an instant connection that you don’t necessarily feel with others.” -Moe
Terrionna Brockman - San Antonio '18
Representation Through Transparency and Authenticity
"When I was little, I knew in my heart I wanted to be a teacher—but my interests shifted. As I grew up, I was mentoring and always found a way to educate those around me. Now that I’m teaching, it feels like something that comes naturally. I’m not a pro, but things like relationships with my students comes naturally. Making sure that I’m bringing things that I didn’t necessarily have in a teacher, to my classroom. I am very transparent with my students… I would have never known that a lot of my students come from the same situation/circumstance if I had not put myself out there and shared my story.”
Learn more about Terrionna Brockman and IMPOWERED, the arts-focused in-school organization she founded for students who have incarcerated parents.
Peter Uwalaka - Houston '07
13 Year Educator | Principal in Residence
Representation at the Table of Influence
“Given that a majority of the teaching force is white women, it is incredibly important that Black men are in classrooms and positions of leadership. I can identify several instances in which my perspective at the table was an important one and had that perspective not been there, there could have possibly been a different outcome for our students. As a Black male, I can offer a perspective that is often needed, as an advocate or support system for students that they may not have at home or in their community.”
Learn more about Peter Uwalaka and his trajectory to Principal.
Angelica Holmes - San Antonio '16
Executive Director | Camp Founder Girls
Representation through Diversity
“You can't be, what you can’t see. Our girls need to see that leaders don’t always look like one type of person. It’s really powerful for them to relate to us on many different levels and for them to identify what they connect with, with each different individual. The thing that makes me the proudest of the girls is when they come into camp very nervous because they didn’t know how they have 'to be'—they initially were trying to play it up and be 'down' and extra, then they realized that there are so many ways to be Black and that you don’t have to prove anything. Instead, they learned they could be exactly who they are, that they are strong enough, fun enough and fit in just by being themselves. That’s the most important thing about being surrounded by people that look like you but at the same time are so different. Realizing that all of our experiences are important and all of our experiences are a part of the Black experience. The Black woman and Black girl experience.”
Learn more about Angelica Holmes and Camp Founder Girls.
Kimani Mitchell - San Antonio '14
6th Year Teacher | Future Assistant Principal
Representation in Safe Spaces
“At my school, there are ~35 out of our 800 students that identify as Black—that is only four percent of the school’s population. For my experience specifically, I am an advisor for an affinity group called, Queens. The Queens advisory has heightened the importance of seeing themselves in their teachers and other Black students. The bonds the girls make with each other and the way they seek out Black teachers feels really special….I believe that representation is super significant, them seeing us be both our professional selves (in the classroom) and our personal selves (outside of the classroom) and how our Blackness shows up in all of those spaces. It’s a place that they can have the support and share in the same experiences.”
Learn more about Kimani Mitchell and Queens.