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Black History is the Past, the Present, and the Future

As Black History Month comes to a close, All4Ed is celebrating all the Black educators that are preparing the next generation of thinkers, workers, doers, makers, and inventors — and in doing so, helping write our country’s future. 

This month, we highlighted some of the talented Black educators that are part of our Future Ready Schools network. From classroom teachers to district superintendents, these educators are transforming the school experience for their students every day.

Dr. Tiffany Anderson, the first Black woman to lead Topeka Public Schools — the school district at the heart of the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation ruling in 1954 — is a fierce advocate for policies that ensure her district’s most vulnerable students get what they need to be successful. 

When the pandemic shut schools down, Dr. Anderson parked school buses with wifi in low-income neighborhoods so her students could join virtual learning sessions and submit homework online. She told Future Ready’s Leading Through Unprecedented Times podcast that the pandemic is like a thunderstorm: “Right now, it’s really raining. It’s a thunderstorm. You have two options. You can complain about the rain, or you can dance in the puddles. I choose to dance in the puddles.”

At Hatboro-Horsham High School in the Philadelphia suburbs, principal Dennis M. Williams Jr. knew that disruptions to in-person learning due to the pandemic would mean behavioral challenges once students returned to the building. The school now uses a restorative justice approach to discipline. Empowering students to resolve conflict rather  than punishing them when they struggle to follow the rules. 

“When we allow kids to communicate what some of the issues are then I think we have a much better understanding of how to respond to them,” Williams said during Future Ready’s Developing Disciplined Learners podcast. “For years, schools just haven’t done that. I’m guilty of it, too. It’s been really refreshing to have these kinds of conversations with students and then watch our teachers have similar conversations.”

For Marlon Styles, superintendent of Middletown City Schools in southwest Ohio, obstacles are “opportunities to provide.” He told Future Ready’s Leading Through Unprecedented Times that tackling systemic inequities isn’t about talk — it’s about action and giving students agency.

“Our students are dealing with these social justice issues, and it’s shaping their minds for the future for how they’re going to approach and tackle life. We’ve got to make sure we give them the platform they want to really activate their voice so they can inspire some true change.”

We celebrate our predecessors, like Kelly Miller who helped open doors to higher education for Black people. We thank the 239,000 Black teachers in classrooms today. And, as a former classroom teacher and principal myself, I am continuously inspired by Black educators who are our ancestors’ wildest dreams. 

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Rebeca Shackleford

Director of Federal Government Relations

Meet Rebeca