Rev. Valarie Englert, Senior Pastor
At the end of the first day of fourth grade, the school bus dropped me off in front of my family’s home.
My mother greeted me at the front door and asked, “Well, how was the first day of school?”
Beaming, I replied, “It was great! And my teacher didn’t yell at me for talking one single time!”
(A frequent comment brought up at parent teacher conferences was that the teacher often saw just the back of my head; I often would be turned around, talking to the student behind me.)
My parents had transferred me to a new school the summer before my fourth grade year.
Later, I learned that my parents chose to participate in a school district option called a ‘majority-to-minority transfer.’
I was one of eight white students in the majority African-American Harlem Elementary School.
Our principal, Mr. Colquitt, was an innovative educator, implementing an open classroom model that emphasized self-paced learning.
It was the best school year of my life.
My teacher, Mrs. Jennings, understood and encouraged me, and I thrived in the environment.
I also developed friendships with kids who were different from me, instilling in me a lifelong desire to enter into and nurture relationships with others from diverse backgrounds.
At its best, school is a place where we learn not just subject content, but can learn about our own selves and who we want to become.
We are nurtured by teachers who not only help us get ready for tests, but who assure us that we matter as human beings.
At the beginning of this new school year, with all of its risks, uncertainties, and anxieties, my hope is that each and every student and educator may know that they matter to us.
My prayer is that they remain well and safe.
And never forget that you are a blessing.