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The Power of a Teacher - Teacher Appreciation Week

This week, and everyday I appreciate the amazing tenacity and quality teaching I received from Mr. Smith. I believe every child in New York City deserves a teacher like Mr. Smith.

In the early 1990s, I was forever changed by the tremendous courage of Mr. Smith, my 3rd grade teacher. He taught me and 20 or so other low-income, children of color on the north side of the mostly segregated city. My mother, a meat shop worker and my father, a mostly unemployed community college student sent me to school in good faith that whatever I was learning would inspire me to change my life trajectory of generational poverty.

A neighborhood plagued by gangs, teen pregnancy, high incarceration rates, and steep unemployment, the children in my class were lucky if we had ever been outside the county, let alone the country. Mr. Smith pushed me when I didn’t have the tenacity. He interceded when my parents didn’t have the capacity. He took me to the library and helped me think critically by asking probing questions. He was rigorous and demanding. He helped me apply to competitive middle schools and sent me enriching assignments.

I found solace in Mr. Smith’s 3rd grade class and I believe he changed my life. I attribute Mr. Smith with my love of learning, creative writing, and jazz music. Yes, jazz music. Mr. Smith played John Coltrane for us every morning to ease our mind and restart our imagination. He was the first teacher, the first person, who told me I could be anything I wanted to be. Mr. Smith’s expectation of me stayed with me throughout my life. He inspired me to attend college and to work on social and civil justice issues that affected the lives of children.

This week, and everyday I appreciate the amazing tenacity and quality teaching I received from Mr. Smith. I believe every child in New York City deserves a teacher like Mr. Smith.

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