What are my memories of the 1977 Academy of Achievement program in Orlando, Florida? I can remember having breakfast with Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken — he looked just like he did on the store billboard — as he shared his amazing entrepreneur’s story. I remember Alex Haley recounting his investigation into his past, and I savored watching the miniseries, Roots, when I got home. I remember meeting awesome fellow students who were moving on, as I was, to the next step of their education journeys.
I attended Princeton University and then went into the Peace Corps in Paraguay, where I worked with a cooperative of farmers who started a molasses factory. On my way home, I took a teaching job in Honduras and decided that teaching was my calling. I went to Harvard University to get my Master’s in education and a teaching certification. After ten years of teaching, I took a hiatus to raise our three children, to start an environmental AmeriCorps program, and to serve on the Lafourche Parish School Board.
I am now in my 25th year of teaching. I have taught in an array of settings — in a maximum security prison, in a school with Native American students — but mainly I have been teaching in high-poverty urban schools. I am currently in my fifth year as the World History teacher at the New Orleans Charter Science and Mathematics High School. I try to engage my students to pursue historical research, not unlike the kind that Alex Haley did back in the ’70s. My students participate in the National History Day contest, making documentaries and websites, writing plays and research papers. We are currently piloting a local research project into women who have played a part in New Orleans history, in preparation for the tricentennial of the city in 2018. I plan to teach for ten more years and then to get involved again in protecting Louisiana’s wetlands or maybe even take another shot at politics! Who knows?
(Caption: Reaching Sky High at Sci High: My students and me at the National History Day contest.)