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By Executive Editor Nehemiah D. Frank
TULSA — Karice began the school year as a pre-K Associate Teacher and by the end of her rookie year, she’s finishing the year as the Health and Wellness Teacher. She leads her, own, classroom at Greenwood Leadership Academy.
Karice said Kojo Asamoa-Caesar — the founding principal of the school — shared with her the positive vision he has, which is to see black children strive for academic excellence. He also told Karice that she’d receive opportunities for professional development. Karice explained that it was the vision and the professional development, which both convinced her to join the GLA family.
The school sits in a state that’s witnessing a teacher exodus. Last year Oklahoma hired 1,400 emergency-certified teachers. This past spring, the state experienced a teacher walkout of epidemic proportions. Despite the lack of teachers in the state and because the school is committed to ensuring that each student receives the necessary attention for success, GLA strategically places two teachers in every classroom — a lead teacher and an associate teacher.
Because Greenwood Leadership Academy is a non-traditional school, a partnership school, Karice is allowed to work as a teacher while she continues to pursue a Bachelors.
Karice is not a certified teacher nor does she believe that a certification is necessary to lead a classroom. “Everyone comes in with their reservoir of knowledge and certification doesn’t take or add to what you can bring naturally, ” she says. This practice works well in black communities because of the black teacher shortage.
After all, being a certified teacher doesn’t make them less racially biased towards black students.
In American schools, black children are less likely to see teachers who look like them, so Kandice’s role is essential for self-esteem building and cultural empowerment for her students of color. “I think it’s encouraging for students to see someone who looks like them because they can identify and say I can do that, too,” Karice explained.
For the non-black students, they too are positively impacted because they have the value of exposure to a teacher of color when most students never have that opportunity.
As the Health and Wellness teacher, Karice sees every student in the school, roughly 120 kids per week.
Karice said her best learning experiences came while she worked as the Associate Teacher. She learned that she was just as capable of leading a classroom, even without the teacher certification.
Most public schools with a large black student population have high suspension rates; however, GLA does not.
“I’ve visited multiple schools in the past, and I have a smile on my face because I’m happy to tell you that we work with the students on a person-to-person level,” she says. “We can’t expect students to jump and communicate at the adult level without showing them how to do it. We don’t assume that they are bad kids because they are acting out. We look to the source of their frustration, and we work with the child and their family to help solve the problem.”
Karice believes that partnership schools are the best of both worlds because it allows the partnership school to deal with issues as it relates to the community. “We have the autonomy to do it our, own, way.” The way they execute their curriculum is a primary example. “We have the freedom to present our curriculum to our students in a culturally relevant way,” she Karice.
Nehemiah D. Frank is the Founder & Executive Editor of the Black Wall St. Times. Frank graduated from Harold Washington College in Chicago, IL in General Studies, and earned a Political Science degree from Oklahoma State University. He is a community activism, a teacher at Sankofa School of the Performing Arts, a blogger for Education Post, and dedicates most of his time to empowering and uplifting his community of North Tulsa, home to America’s Black Wall Street. Frank is a 2017 Terence Crutcher Foundation Honoree and the Community Impact Award recipient for the MET Cares Foundation and has been featured on NBC, Blavity, and Tulsa People. His latest accolade includes a TEDx Talk at the University of Tulsa.