This post was sponsored by Massachusetts Mutual Financial Group (MassMutual). All opinions are my own.
I was that child that grew up teaching in my imaginary classrooms with my chalk and chalkboard set. My parents were educators, so I always admired this career. I knew in my heart I wanted to be a teacher. I taught for 10 years in the Chicago Public School system; it was my first career after I graduated from college. Though I no longer teach, many of my former students still send me messages and letters today about how I impacted their lives.
There is one particular person who was actually very influential during my teaching career. Judy Adams was my mentor and principal at the Chicago Public School I taught at on the South Side of town. What I most admired was her outgoing personality, yet her firmness as an educational leader. I was impressed how she developed effective partnerships with parents, staff and the community to support our students’ learning and progress.
Today I salute my favorite educator who made a difference in my life and the many students she worked with as a teacher and principal, Mrs. Judy Adams.
Meet Mrs. Adams:
Judy Adams was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. A firm believer in Malcolm X’s assertion that, “Without education, you’re not going anywhere in this world,” she always had the desire to pursue a career in education. She attended Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and received her degrees from Chicago State and National Louis Universities. She embarked on a career with CPS and worked as an elementary teacher, reading intensive teacher, guidance counselor, assistant principal, and principal for over 34 years. The happily retired educational leader loves spending time with her husband, children, and grandchildren. Being the secretary of her block club, exercising daily, and attending Trinity United Church of Christ allows her to remain active mentally, physically, and spiritually.
Q & A
What inspired you to become an educator?
From grades Kindergarten through 8th, I attended Medill Elementary School, which is a Chicago Public School located on the West Side of Chicago. All of my teachers were African-American. They transformed low-income children who were living in a Chicago Housing Project by using their teaching expertise in making a lot out of the sparse resources available to them. Their ability to connect to their students was simply a given. At the age of 17 my mother passed away and I went to live with my sister who was a teacher. At 17, I conclusively decided to become a teacher. My desire was to teach African-American children and to be to them what my grade school teachers and my sister were to me—pillars of strength, beauty, and dedication.
It’s Black History Month. What advice would you give Black educators who also work in inner-city schools?
Whether from Brazil, Puerto Rico, some places in Mexico, or the United States of America, we are all from the shores of Africa and Black educators who work in inner-city schools should not allow anyone else to tell our story. Working in school systems that are described as “struggling” and “failing” are intentionally spoken to demoralize both teachers and students and it becomes crucial to student achievement that our students know there is a story to be told and that story does not begin with slavery. My advice is to do the research on who you really are and pass that information on to your students. For it is these teachers that can, do, and will continue to rise to be the difference that our students need. As Maya Angelou writes in “Still I Rise”:
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
Do you have a favorite educator? Leave a comment below on how they impacted your life.
Poem Excerpt via Maya Angelou, “Still I Rise” from And Still I Rise. Copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou.
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