Black excellence has never been confined to a single month — especially when it comes to education. At DonorsChoose, we see the year-round difference that Black educators make in their classrooms. And besides being terrific educators, Black teachers are also activists, community leaders, agents of change, and so much more. This February, get to know 5 of the many amazing Black educators on DonorsChoose who exemplify this in their communities.
The Awesomely Approachable Advocator: Malik Holley-Ames
To Mr. Holley-Ames, connecting with his students on a real level is critical‚— and the data agrees. The graduation rate among Black students increases by 33% if they have just one Black teacher between third and fifth grade. “As a young Black male teacher, I have a lot in common with my students,” he says, “... my students have a unique level of trust in me because we can relate to each other.” But Mr. Holley-Ames also goes above and beyond to create a safe space for all his students, so that they know their potential is limitless.
As he puts it, “I want my students to have confidence in themselves. Even if they think an answer is wrong, I want them to still share it. There are no dumb questions in my class. The fear of being wrong can hold you back … I know that if they can be fearless in their learning, they’ll be able to achieve anything.”
The Legacy Leaving Lessonmaker: Emmanuela Louis
With 25 years of teaching under her belt, Ms. Louis knows education and helping students grow into the best version of themselves means teaching and supporting beyond just her lesson plans. As a result, she has left an iconic mark on so many of her students across the decades.
As Ms. Louis told us, “I have the ability to inspire and motivate my students through love. I believe in teaching the whole child. I support more than their academic needs, but their social emotional needs as well. Many of my students come back to my school and look for me. They invite me to their sweet 16's, weddings, and graduations.”
The Compassionate Community Creator: Katrice Dixon
Dedicated math-teacher and all-around relationship-builder, Ms. Dixon knows just what it takes to inspire not only her students but whole communities. In fact, her and her class once led a school-wide effort to provide hard-to-get resources like Lysol wipes during the pandemic to her school and nearby community.
Ms. Dixon’s advice to other Black teachers? “The students need you, the teachers need you, the community needs you. Not just to be in the building but to walk in excellence, to be the change you wish to see. To bring all of your richness in culture, pedagogy, style and swag, too. Being an educator is the richest career in the world because we are the creators and the real influencers of the world. It all starts with us so even on the tough days go in and thrive.”
The Bighearted-Bridgemaker: Denise Lopez-Gill
This educator doesn’t just motivate her students, she motivates everyone around her. From donating DonorsChoose-funded legos resources to her school’s STEM room to training her fellow colleagues on how to post their own amazing projects, Mrs. Gill is the definition of generosity and sharing the wealth.
Speaking of, the message she’d like to share to other Black educators out there is this: “Stay the course and inspire your students to see greatness in themselves. Teach them how to identify their strengths and work on their goals. Let them know that things get hard for everyone but they have people pushing for them.”
The Changemaking-Champion: Demetria Richardson
With another 25 years of teaching experience, Mrs. Richardson isn’t unrealistic about the challenges that exist for her students, but she absolutely knows how to push for progress in new and fresh ways. She even has helped inspire legislation in her state of Virginia that supports Computer Science. This is just one example of the ways Mrs. Richardson sees the big picture in being a teacher.
In her words, “We know that school is so much more than just a building and so much happens inside than just teaching. ALL of us provide our children with something and we might not know what that something is right now, but know that each one of you is where you are supposed to be. This work is not easy, but stay the course because you are needed.”
Black teachers have always been instrumental in American history. But knowing all the creative, thoughtful, student-centered, light-bulbs-just-appeared, idea-sparking, projects we’ve seen already come from teachers on the DonorsChoose site alone, we know that Black educators are instrumental in shaping the future too. We know with the right resources and support, Black teachers and their students will achieve their dreams and help create a more equitable future.
Looking to directly support Black teachers and students? Check out these DonorsChoose projects.