US Department of Education Expresses Gratitude to Educators…And I was One of them!

HE CALLED TO THANK ME?! The US Secretary of Education, Dr. John B. King called to thank me?! For my service?…I was in awe; I had to listen to the call myself to even know what I did to warrant such an honor. Our conversation begins about 3:30 minutes into the video.

I mustered the words I could; I guess at the appropriate times. I was dumbfounded…awestruck even. I have stood in awe of US Secretary of Education Dr. John B. King ever since he took office. His background could have rendered different results; he gives credit to the teachers that invested in him and uses his testimony to motivate educators to provide not just better but the best for the students we serve. Sitting at the helm of the US Department of Education, he remained true to his beliefs in serving all children and supporting the teachers that serve them. Everyday he fights and champions beyond anything we can imagine. And yet…HE CALLED ME?!

Speechless. My team found me absolutely speechless.

Grateful. To know the team I work with appreciates the service I render.

Tear-filled. I “never” cry but I could not help it this time; I am touched.

Honored. In a calling this demanding, there is no greater feeling than knowing you are appreciated. I love and live to surprise the people I care about. This time my team got me instead. And a surprise it was indeed!

Validated. I am rendering a reasonable service.

A Faith to Educate


All I wanted to do was teach: A Reasonable Service, Part 1,” describes the emotional roller coaster educators ride before they can ever begin to teach:

Baffled. Humbled. Grateful. Awestruck. Relieved. Hungry. Sympathetic. Empathetic. Infuriated. Exhausted. Hopeful. Triumphant. Data-driven. Thoughtful. Pensive.

I came into this profession wanting to impact lives; especially for under served populations. Teaching was the vehicle to do so. With every challenging reality of what it takes, my faith, determining my “reasonable service” is my guide.



Pastor Marion B. Robinson speaks with youth and their mentors during a youth summit.

As my career unfolds, my pastor, Rev. Marion B. Robinson reminds me to, “Always do what is right.” Rev. Robinson mobilizes whole communities around issues in education. As an educator, anything that is wrong within, our power and influence, we are obligated to change it. If it is not within our influence, we are required to challenge it. We are advocates for the students we serve. Who else knows their story like we do? Who else knows how it impacts their learning like we do? I can recall being infuriated as a brand new teacher to be handed a full course load of the lowest level students. I wasn’t furious because I did not want to teach them. I was furious because of what their placement and the expectations that were set for them implied about them. My response: teach them; with everything I had. I recall being further infuriated when these same students were not placed in higher level courses the following year as I recommended. Many of those students were more successful than they had ever been because barriers were removed.

Our “reasonable service:”

  • Measure every decision against, “What is best for kids?”
  • Remove barriers
  • Challenge policy
  • Challenge Colleagues



Outside of the Impact Center, Pastor James D. Gailliard shares with visiting educators the need for holistic ministries and services in order to impact communities.

Along the way in my career, I met Pastor James D. Gailliard. While leading a holistic ministry to meet spiritual, physical and social needs in his community, he reminds me, “Every number has a name, every name has a story and every story matters.” I am encouraged to serve the whole child in order to impact the whole community. In this world of accountability, everything we do in the classroom will translate into test scores for our students. Students are not scores. We are reminded to look beyond the output and focus on the input; our service to our students. Getting to know our students’ stories is what helps us to know how to meet their needs. Why are they hungry? Is the food in the drawer enough or do we need to help parents find extra income or assistance? Why are they acting out? Is there positive or negative attention provided at home. What are their goals and dreams? How can we provide curriculum and experiences to help them? What experiences are needed that they are not getting? What colleges do we need to visit or work force development opportunities can be created? WHAT DOES HOPE MEAN TO THIS CHILD AND THIS COMMUNITY?

Our “reasonable service:”

  • Do not pass judgment on students, families and their circumstances. “Unpack” issues to determine what help is within our abilities to provide.
  • Do not ignore student needs. Always have a willingness to meet student needs. “Where there is a will; there is a way.”


As I am trying to figure out many things in order to better serve my students, I met Rev. Richard Joyner. Rev. Joyner is changing the lives of children and their families through a community garden. He compassionately shared with me, “The schools cannot do this alone. It is our [community] job to get students ready to return to school each day.” He is right; there is a lot we [educators] can do; however, we cannot do it all. We have to enlist our allies, the home and the community.

Our “reasonable service:”

  • Value and invite parents to engage and get involved. Be mindful that engagement and involvement are two distinct and equally valuable assets.
  • Tap into the available resources through churches, businesses and agencies. Resources are not always monetary donations or tangible goods; it can be a service.
  • Be open minded of ideas and suggestions from outside the school. We are serving the same communities there may be some issues or needs the school may not be fully aware. Be open to developing solutions collaboratively with parents and communities.



Pastor J. Jasper Wilkins visits our schools to make an assessment of how his ministry can support our work.

Most recently in my career, I have reconnected with Pastor J. Jasper Wilkins. Pastor Wilkins was my pastor early on in my life. In my current role, I serve a community dear to his heart- his home. In alignment with his church’s mission to help, hope and heal he is investing in our endeavors along with the surrounding community. Most recently he inquired, “What’s going on in your world?” I immediately run down the list of “band-aids,” we were putting in place in order to get students where they need to be. He then looks at me and says, “How are you?” Band-aids would not do; and it was probably all over my face. I unloaded the frustration of only having “band-aids,” at my disposal. The next question was, “Who do you speak with to make sure that happens?” It is very easy to absorb issues in a manner of bandaging without repairing. Taking some time to debrief within yourself will allow the opportunity to think deeper toward the steps that drive solutions.

Our “reasonable service:”

  • Take care of yourself in a manner that provides clarity around important decisions that impacts the students we serve.
  • Take the time to determine how you feel about the service you are rendering to your students.
  • Before a collective conversation, think about what it will take to move beyond the “bandages.”

I walk into my role every day with joy– loving curriculum and what it brings to the students I serve. I also know the daily heartache that comes when I have to unpack students’ stories before my eyes in order for them to attend to the curriculum of the day and obtain the opportunities that await them. Learning involves more than we can imagine; before students ever take their seats and books are ever cracked open. Who am I to not serve with my gifts? Who am I to not serve in the ways that I am able? I may not be able to do it all; but I can commit to doing what I can. My faith will not allow me to do this- Education- any other way.


A heart formed after a storm.

I will ride the emotional roller coaster…I trust that daily I visit the following peaks:

Called. I am doing exactly what I am supposed to do and serving faithfully who and where I am supposed to serve.

Fulfilled. My heart is full. I can rest knowing I have done what I can for those I serve. I have given my “reasonable service.”

What is your “reasonable service?” I welcome you to share your thoughts.


  1. James D. Gailliard serves as pastor of Word Tabernacle Church, Rocky Mount, NC and president and founder of the Impact Center.
  2. Richard Joyner serves as pastor of Conetoe Missionary Baptist Church, Conetoe, North Carolina and CEO and founder of the Conetoe Family Life Center/Community Garden.
  3. Marion B. Robinson serves as pastor of Saint Matthew AME Church, Raleigh, NC and founder of the Harriet B. Webster Task Force for Student Success, the Flood Group: A Community Education Committee and sits on the board for Wake Education Partnership.
  4. J. Jasper Wilkins serves as pastor of Wake Chapel Church, having two locations in Raleigh, NC. He serves multiple facets of the community in the areas of religion, civics, politics and health.

All I Wanted To Do Was Teach



ALL I WANTED TO DO WAS TEACH. However, often I find myself…

Baffled. I received praise as I traveled my 50-mile commute post the 8:00 PM hour because we received a call about a missing student. I was just informing. I did not need the praise. I needed to find the student. The student was found.

Humbled. In my absence, my mom informs my church that a number of students were affected and even displaced by Hurricane Matthew. My church family proceeds to fill whole rooms in my mother’s home with clothes and goods to donate to the families I serve.

Grateful. When I share with the marketing director of the local Zaxby’s of the challenges we face in a school in which 75% of students receive free and reduced lunch, she reaches out to her church and provide us with enough food to serve 75 families the Saturday immediately following Hurricane Matthew.

Awestruck. Three local churches reach out to our schools because they know our needs and offer assistance during the holiday season. We were able to provide Christmas gifts to over 32 families.

Relieved. When a parent expresses wanting to find work and establish a career; I can connect them to the local agency and they receive one-on-one assistance and guidance toward their goal…toward better for their family.

Hungry. The snacks purchased for personal sustenance during the day becomes manna for the hungry students I serve. The snack drawer; now a pantry.

Sympathetic. Preparing assignments to send to the local prison for an incarcerated or homebound students. Developing a means to translate the content feasibly in the absence of face-to-face instruction.

Empathetic. Stock piling clothes into a clothes closet to ensure students have uniforms and clothing to wear to school.

Infuriated. Adhering to policies that do not serve students well and ostracize certain populations.

Exhausted. Addressing social-emotional needs that stem from loss, lack of exposure and experiences, and poverty, be it absolute, generational, or relative. We extend our day to support students in extra-curricular activities or engage parents in meetings, conferences and discussions.

Excited. When donating items to a local church for Hurricane Matthew victims and volunteering during their giveaway, I connect with families that I did not know were displaced and in need. We are able to help them find the social service assistance needed to help with recovery.

Hopeful. Helping more students to gain exposure to a college-going culture, career pathway, and opportunity unknown as they prepare for graduation through local community college partnerships. Connecting with local mental health services to address some of the needs students have that may impede learning.

Triumphant. Doubling the number of students gaining access to college level courses in high school.

Data-driven. Using every tool to understand what the students I serve need and how the curriculum needs to be delivered to ensure they receive it.

Thoughtful. Trying to determine what needs to happen to create the best school culture for students to learn. Figuring out ways to reach parents and partner with community entities. Putting the puzzle together to determine which partners can help plug which holes for students and their families.

Pensive. Racing to the end of the year, to get end of grade/course test scores securing the evidence needed to show we helped students grow and gain proficiency.

ALL I EVER REALLY WANTED TO DO… WAS TEACH and somehow I find myself on this emotional roller coaster.

I enjoyed teaching so much; I wanted to help others love teaching and curriculum as much as I do. In July, I began serving in my dream job: Chief Academic Officer. I love where I am in my career. Although, there were many changes traveling the road from being a teacher; what has not changed are the daily peaks and dips of this roller coaster ride.

When I share my day with others I often hear the sympathetic, “I do not know how you do it.” Or as we vent as colleagues I hear, “That’s not my job.”

The issue is…if I was not doing all of these things…I would not be able to do my job.

I would not be able to educate.

All I wanted to do was teach. After years as an educator, with the ups and downs, sways and jerks of the roller coaster, I now understand it all as my “reasonable service.”

What necessary “ups, downs, sways and jerks” would you add to the roller coaster? How are you addressing them? Share your thoughts. Let’s keep this ride going…

A Reflection: Teaching Service & Gaining Affirmations

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“No Gifts this Christmas!” That was my Christmas 2016 declaration for my godchildren. Although worried that others may have the impression of me being cruel to my 10 and 12-year-old godchildren; I could justify my declaration.

  1. I believe in investing in experiences. Often aligning these experience to what they are studying in school. These experiences are necessary support to their achievement in school and quality of life.
  2. As they grow older, they are developing an awareness of wealth and it’s perceived connection to success. With this growing knowledge, there seems to be little consideration of the efforts “successful” people put into acquiring their wealth.
  3. My godchildren have the fortune of being raised by a village. In this village their primary responsibilities are to:
    • Attend to the lessons that will make them healthy human beings and
    • Attend to their studies.

I grow concerned that they are not prioritizing their responsibilities as they should. I do not want them to develop a sense of entitlement. Christmas 2016 was an opportunity to work on this. I set out to provide a different type of experience that would help my godchildren understand the value of service and the meaning of gratitude. They did not receive toys or gadgets for Christmas this year. Instead, we would serve together to feed the homeless in our community.

We walked to the venue. During our walk, Isaac asked, “Chaunté, what are we going to be doing?” I replied, “Feed the homeless.” He then looked at me as a know it all 12-year-old would and said, “But WHAT are we going to be doing?” I explained we would help where we could. I did not have a clue as to the specifics of this experience. For them, feeding the homeless resulted in many lessons. In this experience, I found several affirmations for me as an educator:

  1. The Value of the Hidden Curriculum! Hidden curriculum are those covert or unintended learning opportunities that are developed throughout or embedded in an intended lesson or curriculum. The skilled educator can find these opportunities and deepen learning to create relevance for students. Our four block walk, is one I often make and take for granted; however, they were curious with many questions about people and things we encountered along the way. Acknowledging their questions and finding answers along the way allowed me to create lessons for them and expand a context I never bothered to acknowledge.

Educators are the content experts of their classrooms; content knowledge can easily be taken for granted. What we know may look and appear very different through the lens of the children we serve. For fear of getting “off pace,” or not being explicitly included in the curriculum guide we may not embrace their questioning and queries. Be aware and embrace the hidden curriculum. Hidden curriculum provides valuable learning experiences too.


Distributing toiletries

  1. The Value of Student Autonomy in Learning! I was worried they may be paralyzed with discomfort. Upon arrival, we had to “jump in” to help and they looked at me baffled as to what they were supposed to do. I gave them the following directions, “You see the man in the red shirt? Ask him if you can assist with handing out the toiletries.” The first 5 minutes they were paralyzed. My goddaughter, even looking back at me with confusion. Within the next five minutes, they were independently distributing materials. As toiletries were no longer available they began to distribute socks. As they served more people, I heard their wishes to have a “Merry Christmas” become stronger and more confident. They even decided to enhance the experience and entertain by playing music from the new cell phones. They became so committed to their assignments that they would even come from around the table to run and find people who missed picking up toiletries and socks as they came through the line. The humbling reality is that I did not have to do everything in order for them to engage and learn the intended lessons. All I had to do was create the opportunity; they were empowered to build the bridge. They turned this experience into one of the their own and brought some of themselves to it.

How awesome would classrooms be if we gave our students the opportunities to explore during learning more often? When they have the directions, tools, know what they are supposed to obtain at the end of their engagement; let them. They will meet and exceed expectations. The inability to provide student autonomy is stifling to their learning at in-depth levels. Allowing students to bring parts of themselves to their learning opportunities creates levels of relevance and a sense of achievement that we as educators cannot create for them.

  1. The Value of Curriculum Connections! On our walk home I questioned the pair, “What was interesting today?” Isaac responds, “I have never done this before. That made it interesting for me.” This was a shocking reality for me. The many donations we made purging closets and pantries in the name of service to others; I never provided them with the connecting experience of seeing and knowing how their efforts impacted other people. I set out to teach them to be servants and gracious givers; but did not provide the connection for them to fully understand the concept.

As educators, we provide great lesson plans, unpack the content to its foundation but often miss providing the experiences that provide the conceptual understanding. Curriculum connections are critical to students acquisition and comprehension of what it is intended for them to learn. Opportunities to engage authentically and immerse themselves is key to developing conceptual understanding of the content.

  1. The Value of Service! As we continued our walk, I continued to probe. “What did you see?” They questioned seeing children in the serving line; I explained that children are homeless because their parents are homeless. This was an unfathomable reality. They recalled seeing people juggle multiple plates of food and bags of food. I explained that this was because they did not know when they would receive a meal again. As I explained, we were passing the park just as the many served were unpacking their dinner plates. As we approached the house, Isaac turns to me and asked, “Chaunté, how do we keep them from being homeless?” I was proud; because he “got it,” and yet ashamed, because with all the effort to teach the lesson, I did not have the answer. I gave him the best I could at the time; honesty. “Son, I do not know. People are homeless for a lot of different reasons. As we learn their needs, we can try to help them.” He responded, “Well what do we do?” I am surprised at his probe of me now. “We can help in the ways we have: collect clothes, food, and assisting like today,” I needed him to know his previous efforts were accounted for and then followed up with, “I think we ensure we are always able to serve and make sure we continue to serve.”

As educators, we all have a classroom of children or a child that baffles us and challenges every best practice we know. We want so much for them, their circumstances, their qualities of life, their lack of support are constant hindrances to their success. There is no simple, one solution. We CAN dissect and develop the learning opportunities and experiences that will expose students to the hidden curriculum, give them the autonomy to develop in their own learning and provide the appropriate connections. WE CAN CONTINUE TO SERVE.

The holiday break is a time for educators to rejuvenate. Reflecting upon Christmas 2016, I am grateful for the opportunity to spend time learning and growing with the children I love. I am grateful for the affirmations gained in practice that I can employ with the students I serve when we return to school in the new year.

What affirmed best practices are you looking forward to using in your service? I welcome you to share.


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