I started teaching middle school students in Huntsville, Alabama, in January of 2015.
My students were mostly from the poorest parts of the city.
For the most part, they were working two jobs and were living in a tent city of a four-bedroom house, where they could barely afford to rent.
They were living on food stamps and the government subsidized them with public housing.
They had no support from school boards, who were all white, or parents.
I started to wonder if I could help these kids.
So I did.
I taught them the basics of reading, writing, math and history.
I also taught them that there are more things in life than we think.
The kids loved it, and the school district even gave me a scholarship to cover the costs of tuition and books.
At the end of the year, they made a big impact.
They made the grade, and I felt a sense of accomplishment.
But I wasn’t done.
I was so busy working with these kids that I forgot to mention that I had also spent the last few months teaching the middle school curriculum at a middle school in the same area.
My classroom had become a sanctuary, a place where I could teach the students that I grew up with, and that I knew so well.
And that’s when I realized that this was where I had to start again.