Why did you choose the UTEP program?
One of the things that attracted me to the UTEP program was its realistic approach towards enhancing the education of low-income students. I believe that oftentimes, people assume discipline is the greatest challenge in the classroom. What I have come to learn is that discipline can be managed but sometimes socioeconomic barriers can hinder students from learning. For example, if a child lives in a broken home and is forced to move often, it really makes it harder for the child to keep up academically. As a former UTEP scholar, I learned how to be sensitive to the needs of the students. I have used my past skills from television to develop a science television channel (sciencejunkie) and to create an online social media page (myscienceclassonline) where my students are able to interact with me and obtain discussion notes, and assignments.
Do you have any advice for students who are thinking about going into the teaching profession?
I would really encourage anyone considering a teaching career to “love what you do and to be passionate about children.” As a proud UTEP alumnus, I really believe in pushing kids to achieve their best.
You interviewed civil rights icon Jesse Jackson. Explain how this came about?
I caught up with Reverend Jackson at the highly watched Stellar Awards. For those who may not be familiar, the Stellar Awards program celebrates individuals that have made major contributions to the gospel industry. Meeting Reverend Jackson was an honor for me because I read about the things that he, Dr. King, and Al Sharpton did during the civil rights movement and I felt like I was truly in the presence of a legend. What I really found interesting was the fact that Reverend Jackson and I met again when he spoke at the funeral of my cousin, Gospel legend Inez Andrews of the chart-topping group, The Caravans.
Name one thing that the civil rights icon said that influenced you as a teacher?
During the interview, Reverend Jackson explained that education is valuable because, “strong minds are capable of breaking strong chains.” This has been my mantra every since. I remind my students that we live in a world where there are so many chains that bind us i.e., oppression, discrimination, and poverty. Education is truly the key that can help break those chains that hold us down from being leaders. Speaking with Reverend Jackson, I learned that he was more than just a doer. He was a thinker. Form this I learned that, those who learn “how to do” will always be the employee, but those who “learn how to think” can definitely be the employer. Reverend Jackson is able to lead people in such a way that can change a nation. This was illustrated during his recent involvement in the Trayvon Martin situation.
How are your experiences in the UTEP program and the UTEP competencies helping you to be a successful teacher?
I must admit that prior to being a part of UTEP, I really did not have a clear understanding of the family nor of the community dynamics that my kids came from. One of the things UTEP taught me was to really take the time to understand my kids academically and emotionally, along with their home environments, and to establish positive relationships with parents and community stakeholders. To this day, I try to involve parents as much as possible because they indeed have a vested interest in their child’s future. When parents and teachers are working together, learning can truly take place.
What do you hope to accomplish from this video?
First, I hope that my kids will see that when I tell them to reach for the stars, this it is not just something I am speaking, BUT the life I am living. I hope they will see that you can be educated, and still have careers in entertainment. I believe that reality television and rap music really give a skewed image to young kids i.e., in order to be successful in entertainment, you have to display a sense of ignorance. The fact that I was able to secure this interview with Reverend Jackson, and to become a 5x People TV Award winner, shows that there is a place for individuals who choose not to degrade themselves for a brief moment in the spotlight.
Any words of encouragement for current teachers?
Remember, you hold a valuable place in history. You are teaching the next leaders in our communities. Being a vessel that enhances the educational opportunities for lower income students gives them a great opportunity to improve their communities. Remember, you can change the negative stereotypes in our community by changing the mindsets of children and showing them that they have a civic responsibility to improve their communities for those behind them. Will you join me in leaving a legacy of change in the community?
UTEP truly continues to inspire the best and brightest stars of the new century.