Bernita Bradley was in the fourth grade when she came to recognize the power of great teaching.
Now a parent advocate and blogger who spends her days advocating for quality education in Detroit, Bradley said a great teacher became her “role model” when that teacher changed Bradley’s brother from a kid who was “hopping all over the place” in class to one who realized his own potential.
The boy had been the smart kid who was doing other students’ work, but not his own. That changed when the teacher asked him to stay after school to grade other students’ papers.
“I would watch my brother grade other students’ work and then he would get excited when he didn’t know it and come over to the teacher and ask the teacher ‘I don’t know this part.’ And she would work with him on it and then he’d go back and grade and it turned him into this student who sat in the classroom,” Bradley recalled.
That teacher, she said, “really became my first official role model as a teacher just to see that she changed my brother from being this person who was all over the place to being focused.”
Bradley shared this memory in a story booth set up outside the School Days storytelling event that was sponsored by Chalkbeat and the Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers last month at the Charles H. Wright Museum.
The event brought educators, parents and a student together to tell their stories on stage at the Wright but the event also invited other Detroiters to share their stories in a booth set up by Chalkbeat and the Skillman Foundation. (Skillman also supports Chalkbeat. Learn more about our funding here.)
If you have a story to tell — or know someone who does — please let us know.
Watch Bradley’s full story here:
Detroit Story Booth
This Detroit educator used a sense of community and mentorship to help a student through a personal tragedy
Patrice Wright is committed to being an advocate for her students, she said.
The Michigan State University graduate is a youth worker with Playworks Michigan, an organization that puts AmeriCorps members in schools to teach social skills through physical activities and games.
In her first year working in Detroit schools, Wright said she drew on her own experience at Renaissance High School to help her students.
“Some of the best teachers that I learned how to be a teacher from and how to be a youth worker from are in DPS,” she said. “The hearts of the teachers never change.”
When one of Wright’s students witnessed the violent murder of an immediate family member, the child returned to school the next day, she said.
The student “knew there was somebody there who cared about her, school was that safe space she knew she could come to.”
Wright told her Detroit school story as part of Chalkbeat’s Story Booth series, which began last spring with our storytelling launch event at the Charles H. Wright Museum. If you know someone with a Detroit schools story to tell — a teacher, student parent or anyone else — please let us know.
Watch Patrice’s full story below:
Ask a teacher how to improve education and you’ll get some interesting answers. Among them:
- Change high school schedules so they’ll be more like college, with classes meeting a few times a week.
- Get rid of grades.
- Spend money educating parents as well as their kids.
Those were just some of the ideas Detroit filmmakers Colin Maloney and Dave Salazar heard when they interviewed Detroit-area teachers who work in district and charter schools.
The pair spoke with seven teachers, Maloney said, and included four in a short video called “Ideas From Educators.” The teachers in the video are William Weir from Schulze Elementary School; Molly Tannian from Starr Detroit Academy; Gerrard Allen from University Prep Science & Math, and Rhonda Jackson from Henderson Academy.
“I used to be a teacher down in New Orleans,” Maloney said. “In my experience, there is an abundance of discourse talking about teachers in Detroit and a relative dearth of discourse talking with them.”
Watch the full video here: