My passion for teaching traces back to my school days, especially middle school. To get to school, I walked through "The Main," an area notorious for prostitution and drug dealing. Many families in my neighborhood were poor and gangs, substance abuse and domestic violence were common. School was a safe haven for me and my peers, a place to escape the problems that plagued our community.
I was fortunate to have teachers who expressed an interest in me and cultivated my love for learning. It was my middle school teachers who first introduced me to the idea that I could attend college. Their attention, high standards and encouragement paved my path to becoming the first in my family to graduate from a university.
Unfortunately, many of my friends had a different story. Even though we had some of the same middle school teachers, they did not have the same nurturing experience I did. I'll never forget how my 5th grade teacher told me to leave my friends behind. To her, they were troublemakers and a bad influence. To me, they were my support network. Yes, some did act out, lacked focus in class, didn't complete their homework. But they had talents and aspirations, too. I looked up to many of my friends and admired their courage, tenacity, charisma and street smarts.
It bothered me that they got the short end of the stick at school.
When I went to college, I thought about the difference between my educational journey and theirs. And I could not help but wonder: What if my friends' teachers showed as much interest in them as my teachers showed in me?