Teachers Talk Back: Equity in Educational Leadership
Charles Beavers is a teacher and school leadership team member at Kozminski Community Academy in Hyde Park, Chicago. In this conversation with E4E-Chicago Outreach Director Jessica Sullivan, Charles discusses his path to leadership in education.
Jessica Sullivan (JS): What drew you to the education profession?
Charles Beaves (CB): In college I was the president of a community service organization. We organized community clean ups, provided meals to the homeless twice a week, registered voters, and ran a tutoring and mentoring program on weekends. This was my first foray into working with students, and I truly loved the work. Over the course of four years, I watched and contributed to the growth of those kids as both people and scholars. It made me happy. Upon graduation, I took a corporate job and was truly miserable for a year and a half. The job itself was fine, but I was not doing something I was passionate about. When I got an opportunity to teach through the Chicago Teaching Fellows program, I jumped at it, and never looked back.
JS: What made you take the next step into educational leadership at your school?
CB: Almost immediately upon starting my career in education, I began to take steps toward leadership. Not intentionally a first, but I was organizing school wide field trips, leading committees, facilitating professional development, and analyzing data. The principals and assistant principals I worked under always took time to explain this work to me, which fostered a deeper understanding about how schools work and how to drive student achievement.
JS: As an African-American man, why is important for your students to see you in your hybrid role of teacher and member of the leadership team?
CB: I truly believe in uplifting all voices, and it is important to me that decisions around instruction and school climate and culture are made by a group that reflectsthe children and community we serve. Thus as the only black man in an instructional leadership role, in a school that's roughly comprised of 50 percent black boys, I must bring my experiences, knowledge, and perspective to inform school decision making, as I can offer an important perspective. Additionally, I believe it to be tremendously important that black children see examples of working black professionals in their lives to reflect upon as they make education and career path decisions.
JS: What drew you to Educators for Excellence and what has been the most valuable thing about working with the organization?
CB: In order to get better in my work, I believe I must interrogate my own ideas and beliefs constantly. E4E has provided a space in which I can connect with like minded educators of varied experiences, who share their work, and their own interrogation of their work, which in turn pushes my thinking and reflection. The intellectual discourse that takes place in meetings, forums, and social events drew me into the organization and is truly valuable to me, as a refine my leadership skills.
JS: Why is this a critical time for more educators to step into leadership roles not just in their schools, but also outside of the classroom?
CB: We are in a critical moment. Students in across the country inspired by the tragic, avoidable school shooting in Parkland, Florida, have risen up and organized to challenge our nation’s gun laws. Educators across the country are rising up to fight for equitable school funding and in protest of state governments that have valued businesses over children. In times like this, it is imperative to act, build upon this current momentum, and force greater change. Educators for Excellence has provided an opportunity for educators like myself to work for our students in the school building and advocate for them outside of the school building. My experience with the advocacy team this year has truly been awesome, and our work will impact students in Illinois for years to come.