6 Teachers We Love

Local educators talk about the art of teaching and what they've learned from your kids.

Photo by Skip Brown.

Timothy Cotman

Minority Achievement Coordinator, Thomas Jefferson Middle School, Arlington | Years in education: 22

❝ I want to help create a school environment where students can be their authentic selves, where they don’t feel like they have to leave any part of their identity or culture at the door. If you feel like a part of you is not valued or affirmed, that impacts your learning.

❝ Difference is seen as a negative thing. Today, people are feeling more emboldened to speak about that. I tell students, “You all have a voice.”

❝ There are still so many negative messages about people of color. It’s hard to find a picture on the Internet of black boys reading a book, but I can find sports or entertainment-type things. If we, as adults, are not conscious of the messages we’re inundated with, then our expectations of students may not be as high.

❝ We were recently talking with a group of black parents. One shared that her daughter had gone into an upper-level class and another student said, “Are you sure you’re in the right class?”

❝ When I began my career, disparities in achievement between students of different races and ethnicities were referred to as “achievement gaps.” Through the years, the term “opportunity gaps” has been used more and more.

❝ I have co-facilitated workshops for APS staff around issues related to race, equity and diversity. These are difficult but necessary conversations to have. Participants are asked to think about messages they have received about people who are different from them and how those messages can impact their practice. Many, for example, have been taught to be “colorblind.” We discuss how this can be harmful. If you cannot acknowledge the social construct of “race,” then you cannot acknowledge the ways in which perceptions of race impact people’s lives every day.

Categories: Education
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