Katrina McNair, a seventh and eighth grade teacher at William Pinder Elementary Middle School in Baltimore, Maryland, goes above and beyond to not only teach, but to also inspire her students. McNair’s teaching career began after her acceptance into Teach for America, a non-profit organization devoted to “eliminating educational inequity by enlisting high-achieving recent college graduates and professionals to teach” in low-income communities throughout the United States. A post-graduate student, McNair has dedicated her time over the past two years as a teacher and aims to change society’s perspective towards teaching by redefining the concept.
“…‘The mediocre teacher tells, the good teacher explains, the superior teacher illustrates, the great teacher inspires.’ This is my motto.”
McNair’s personal journey towards success is the driving force behind her mission. As an undergraduate student, McNair financed her education and achieved a 4.0 GPA numerous times. With a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Master’s Degree from John Hopkins University, she has proven that the word “impossible” is not in her vocabulary and aspires to teach her students that despite the challenges that one may face, it is still possible to achieve success. Her favorite lesson to teach her students is the story of Henrietta Lacks, an African American woman whose cancerous cells were cultured by John Hopkins University to create the first human immortal cell line for medical research. Despite the inhumane treatment Mrs. Lacks was forced to undergo, McNair encourages her students to understand the positive outcome of the situation and realize the progressive effect Henrietta Lacks had on the medical industry.
On a recent trip to the ROOTS Symposium hosted by Teach for America, McNair’s students were able to meet and interact with other Baltimore students at John Hopkins University. Since the trip, her students have handled conflicts better. In addition, they are less shy about approaching her, and have improved drastically in the classroom. These improvements feed McNair’s passion for inspiring her students. Her overall goal is to lead her students towards success and prevent them from falling victim to the criminal justice system that has seemingly taken a strong hold in impoverished communities.
Although McNair has high hopes for every student that passes through her classroom, she also realizes that not every student can be reached. “Some students will fall through the cracks but I’m learning to deal with it and not take it personally,” she explains. As long as her efforts to go above and beyond help at least one student realize their potential, then her mission is accomplished. Being an educator has also forced McNair to adapt to the culture of her students, which varies drastically from how she grew up as a product of two military parents. However, despite the obstacles that lie ahead of her as an educator, McNair never loses sight of her passion to inspire. “I have a quote that I think every aspiring teacher should learn from: ‘The mediocre teacher tells, the good teacher explains, the superior teacher illustrates, the great teacher inspires.’ This is my motto.”
Interview by Oyin Ogunkanmi
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