Four Reasons I Love Being a Black Educator
By Dr. Mike Hill
Sixteen years ago, I was working at for a Head Start program while finishing up my education toward becoming a college professor. One day the center supervisor pulled me aside and implored me to consider getting involved with the local school system. She shared the need of the community and how she believed I would be positioned to make an impact on students, particularly minority students. I took her up on it, looked into it, and never looked back. Although I have had opportunities to still teach at the college level, nothing has compared to the privilege of pouring my energy into young lives every day. As we enter Black History Month, I am compelled to reflect over the many reasons I love what I do and why Black History reminds me there is still much work to be done.
- The opportunity to impact entire communities. Education is a tool, not a goal. Having a goal of obtaining an education will not accomplish much, but when we obtain it and have it in our hands, we have a lever to help change the world. One source of my passion for education is the opportunity to educate individual students, while also playing a role in improving the quality of educational options in the community. Education, while not a sole predictor of success, is a key that will open many doors for our students and families both now and in the future.
- The opportunity to set the record straight. It is an undeniable fact that minorities are disproportionately subject to negative stereotypes and broad-brushed character assumptions. Growing up I was surrounded by examples from my parents and grandparents, that demonstrated the need to work hard and master whatever my hands find to. They should me that while skin color did matter in my world, it should never be an excuse to not work hard and strive to be the best. My mother taught me that I can always do more than I think I can; I could go further than I thought I could, and I can always do better. She taught me to dream big, build small, and refuse to be satisfied. In doing so I have been able to effortlessly communicate to the world that I can be Black, educated, professional, and productive all at the same time.
- The opportunity to raise the bar for black students. During my years in education, I have had the opportunity to teach and mentor scores of students. My ultimate goal has always been to train them to be “better” than myself--to master who they are as individuals while preparing themselves to serve others. The higher calling of an educator is not to teach a lesson, it is to prepare a life. I want every student I serve to be of the mindset that they are always reaching for something higher than where they are and grasping to obtain that which is just beyond their reach.
- The opportunity to change education as a whole. While I have always been passionate about learning, going through school as a kid, it was readily apparent that school systems were not designed with me or my culture in mind. I had to forge my way through, fighting against things I didn’t even know existed: institutionalized racism, a system that labeled me before they even taught me, and being disadvantaged by a lack of cultural capital. As a black educator, I have recognized the need to build an environment in which every student can learn. In addition to raising me to break expectational barriers, my mother also taught me that every color of people under the sun is important. That we all need each other. I want to play my part in building a school, a system, a community, a world that recognizes the same.
During the month of February, University Preparatory Academy will be recognizing Black History Month and look forward to celebrating various figures from all walks of life. I encourage our community to join as we acknowledge and build upon the work of those who have gone before us and their contributions to life in our world.
Dr. Mike Hill is the Principal of University Preparatory in West Palm Beach, FL. He has a passion for serving others through education. He has more than 16 years of experience in various instructional and leadership roles in both public and private sectors of education.