Monday, May 7, 2012

Teacher Appreciation Week | Andrea Leonard

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week!!! I just want to show love to all the teachers out there giving their all and pouring into our kids. It's a tough job and they are under-appreciated...and often underpaid. These teachers work HARD and they play a very vital role in society. THANK YOU ALL!!!!!


W&I: What grade and subject do you teach?

Andrea: 11th/12th Grade English at a Public Charter school in Northeast, D.C. 

W&I: What made you want to be a teacher?

Andrea: It was NEVER, EVER in my life plans to teach! Not even when my now deceased great grandmother saw it and spoke it all my life or when an old college roomate/friend suggested it my sophomore year at A&T as a biology major. Looking back, I think it silently sat in the back of my thoughts, but I don't think the salary or patience needed was something I could deal with at the time. But when you have a calling on your life, there's no escaping it. I was intent on being a doctor all of my life, but by junior year, I hated math and science and fell in love with English and the English Department at A&T hard lol. So I changed my major and life plans. A couple of months after graduating, I was hired as a proposal writer for an education company. Ironically, that paid GREAT. I traveled for free, stayed in four and five star hotels, had an American Express Card, a nice place away from the city and a 401K. But as time went on, I found myself fighting tears because I ended up hating my job SO MUCH. The day I made a plan to get out of there was the day I ran into my former Chancellor Renick who happened to be in the same hotel that a staff meeting was being held, attending a meeting about education ( see the irony here?). I told him I wanted to work with kids so bad I would dream and see myself doing it and it woke me up because it was so vivid. I even had it down to WHAT school I wanted to teach at, but I didn't know who would take a chance on all passion and no experience. He told me to first volunteer places and then make a list of steps to take, and seriously take them. I followed his directions and within a year, March 2010, I officially resigned with no back up job and rent to pay! Everyone thought I was crazy except my mom! I truly stepped out on faith not knowing how much longer I would make it on unemployment. By that October, my good friend Phyllis, who is also in education, kept me in mind because she remembered how badly I wanted to teach from prior conversations. I was hired on the spot during my interview as a substitute, and 6 months into being a sub, I was offered a full time position for the following school year at the very school I wanted to be. So I had no choice in the matter. I think it was kind of ordained by God lol. From me changing my major, to me running into my former Chancellor who gave me the advice I needed. There was no escaping it! But what makes me want to teach is that I teach in the area that raised me. Kids need that example they can relate to. I've gone to their schools, lived on their blocks, caught their buses, trains, and cut through their alleys. I have even taught some kids who are friends of my family. Their stomping grounds were once mine. But I made it, and I came back. I feel it's a duty to come back. My family was far from affluent and if I made it out of DC Public Schools & Minnesota Avenue with a degree, a career, and a happy life, you can too. There's no excuse not to make it, because I did. It's my mission to make them better than me. That's why I teach.  

W&I: What are the joys of being a teacher?

Andrea: When a kid comes back and appreciates the " headache" you were, says they have good grades in college, comes back and gives the warning about your class and how not to play around, but most of all, having them sit with you and do what you taught them correctly. Those " oooooooohhhh I get it now!!" moments are the best because that means you accomplished what you were trying to teach that they had no clue of an hour ago :)

W&I: The struggles?

Andrea: The fact that you will ALWAYS have homework, you must always think fast, calling a million parents, trying to teach one lesson 1000 ways because everyone doesn't learn the same, adults (lol), having what you planned a week ago altered with interruptions & getting behind, trying to find your stride those first couple of years with work and your personal life, being a team player when you just want to focus on your students & their learning, and being asked to do 100,000,000 things on top of teaching.There are moments when you will experience "teacher burn out".

W&I: What keeps you going?

Andrea: I'm not a morning person and there are plenty of days I'm not in the mood to go anywhere no matter how much I love it lol. But when I get in the building and my kids smile, laugh, give me a five, hug, YELL and say "Good Morning Ms. Leonard" or " Lenny Len!!" I'm ready to roll. They come in and look up with a blank stare like "ok...teach" and it just happens. By the end of some lessons, I'm sweating. I'm too young for hot flashes, so I assume its passion spilling out lol. I've had some good and some bad teachers. I never want to be one of those teachers that a kid says "we ain't learn NOTHING in her class." I want to be that teacher that is talked about even when they are grown with their own teenagers and I'm an old lady retired from the game lol.

W&I: Any words of wisdom/encouragement for teachers that may just be starting out or having a hard time?

Andrea: If you wake up and hate it, please quit. If you hate the school...transfer. It may cost you a little, but the cost is much higher for kids to have someone in front of them who doesn't want to be there. They know when you're passionate and care and know when you don't. It shows on how you teach and CARE for them. If you love it like I do, understand there's no perfect teacher, because this is a profession where you are always teaching but you are forever learning. You will have great days & days from hell.Talk, cry, vent, take off when you need to and some nights, let those papers sit right there and LIVE.

W&I: What changes would you like to see in the education system?

Andrea: Raise the bar for education expectations in American schools. Stop making it seem as if getting accepted into college equates to being college-ready. Go back to the old ways of retaining kids who aren't ready for the next level. Make parents much more accountable. Make our kids self sufficient and stop padding them with so many umbrellas where they can't truly see their weaknesses early on so they aren't surprised at a job or in college. Those who make decisions about our schools should work WITH teachers on what needs to be done because we know better than anyone and stop making decisions on a " walk through" of a school or class. Come by more often and get to know our strengths, weaknesses, and children.

W&I: How can we, as a community, help to keep our kids motivated and excited about education?

Andrea: Partner with our schools! Praise our kids when they do well! Offer incentives and don't let a few kids encourage the community to treat all of them like prisoners or animals. Welcome them in your businesses and talk TO THEM and not AT THEM when they are out of pocket.

W&I: Wow. This was great. I can tell you are very passionate about what you do and I pray God keeps that fire burning lol...teaching ain't easy. And lol @ you dripping passion. I literally laughed out loud at that. I'm proud of you and thanks for all that you do!!! I didn't rhyme that on purpose. 


  1. Hi Andrea, reading this about you, makes me so proud. ~Miss Jackie

    1. awww, thanks miss jackie :)!!!