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Making Black History

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At Lowell High School, Elizabeth Statmore works to help Black students make history.

I was grading a mountain of special right triangle quizzes on my lunch block, when one of my Black Student Union advisees popped her head into my classroom. “Hey, Dr. S — do you have a hot glue gun?”

I couldn’t help but smile as I fished one out of my cabinet for her.

When you hear the words “Lowell Black Student Union,” mine is probably not the first face that comes to mind. To be honest, as a middle-aged white Buddhist math teacher, I never expected to be doing this either.

But part of my work on the school’s equity steering committee is to find new ways to make Lowell a more welcoming place for our gifted and talented Black students — and that means pushing beyond my own comfort zone. So I offered to share my experience as an entrepreneur to help them raise money, mentor teams, and clear obstacles in the service of insanely great projects.


Since 1856, Lowell has been an incredible place where gifted kids can hone their talents and achieve amazing things — regardless of ability to pay. Now we are working to make it more welcoming and inclusive. I secretly hope that Lowell’s next three Nobel Prizes will be won by Black or brown alumni.

So Black History Month seemed like a good place to start.

It’s a privilege to support these kids’ creativity, and to be one of the adults who gets to say a holy “yes” to their deep dreams.

One afternoon, a former geometry student and current BSU advisee stopped by to finalize her design for our Black History Month jackets. She showed me her sketches and we cleaned up the image to make it pop on the jacket. When we were done, we submitted the order and added it to our budget tracking spreadsheet.

Then, she reached into her tote bag and pulled out a spiral notebook. She hesitated for a moment, then said, “Could I ask you an algebra II question?”

And without missing a beat, I said, “Girl, I’ve been trying to get you to come talk math with me after school for years.” We both had a good laugh about that — and then we talked about logarithms.

With a Perspective, I’m Elizabeth Statmore.

Elizabeth Statmore is a writer and math teacher in San Francisco.

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