The Making of an Educator
Interview By Tina Adams
“Some of the best educators are people who love it first.”
[ Meet Stephany Rose Spaulding, one of Colorado Springs’ dedicated educators and a valued treasure in the community. Her efforts have positioned her has one of the major voices in the black community by taking a stance against many of the problems that plague the education system and supporting families with consistent strives to offer better and comprehensive resources. ]
How about we start with you telling me a little bit about how you got started in the education field?
I feel like I have been in the education field pretty much all my life. I started in 2007, but I come from a family of educators. My parents were non-traditional students who worked their way through college, while raising five kids and becoming educators in the process. I then grew up and went to undergrad at Clark Atlanta University receiving my bachelor’s degree and from there I received my Master’s in English as well as a PhD in American Studies from Purdue University. After graduation, I taught at Claflin University for two years and then went on to teach at the University of Colorado in 2010, and I’ve been there ever since.
What are some tips that you can give other educators on how to become all they aspire to be?
Some of the best educators are people who love it first and their desire is to be in the classroom. I know that sounds ridiculous, but I have heard of and seen so many people that go into teaching because their first plan didn’t work out and that has a tremendous impact on how people show up in the classroom. So, I hope that we are putting people in the classroom who genuinely desire to be there. Second, the best educators are those who are tremendous students, they recognize that learning is forever. They always want to know how to get better, what’s new in their field that they can study, and they have a sense of wonder even as they teach. Lastly, it is extremely important to build relationships with the students and their families as it is important to remember that you are not just educating the student, but a community of people; especially in the Pre K-12 population. Even, in higher education it’s important to genuinely recognize the humanity of the person you are able to teach, because it’s a tremendous blessing.
What would you consider to be your biggest learning curve?
The biggest thing I’ve learned as an educator is the way in which people learn. I have a strong background in race theory and seeing the way African American students embody certain perspectives and how certain ideologies affect the liberation of the mind was one the hardest lessons that I learned when I first started teaching.
After getting past the learning curve, what would you say is your greatest joy about education?
The greatest joy would be the students. I have actual students that I still know, and still make me proud. And this may make me sound old, but some of my students are now earning their PhDs and I am so amazed and proud of their achievements. They were brilliant when I was teaching them, but just to watch them grow and develop has been amazing. I’m still close with some of them, and some come back and say, “You know I really didn’t understand what you were trying to get me to see and to open my mind to at the time, but now it plays a big role in my life, and I thank you.” Those are some of the best moments as an educator.
What would you say to a student that wants to succeed in the classroom?
To be teachable and to keep an open mind. It starts with a willingness to learn and sometimes that’s not the easiest thing to do, especially in higher education, so many come focused on the career they are going to get afterwards. Their ability to discover and have their minds blown can be shut off because they are so focused on the outcome of career. I tell any student walking onto a college campus to open your mind to what you don’t even know you don’t know.
In your opinion, what is the role of education?
I think education is foundational, as both an educator and a pastor, I come to the scripture that says, “the first principal of the oracles of God is that you be taught.” There is nothing that we can do in life without first being taught to do it. Even when a baby is born, sometimes the doctor has to tap it on the behind to get it to breath because it’s a new environment and it doesn’t automatically register. The role of education is foundational in who we are as human beings, we are being taught from conception. There are even studies that show that babies in the womb can learn baby Mozart.
Coming from an educational background and a pastoral, here in Colorado Springs, is there a role that the church can play in education?
As human beings we are constantly learning and every environment that we are in reinforces that. Historically for black people in the United States, the church by in large was the first schoolhouse for a number of years. It was the church where people learned how to read, reciting scriptures from the Bible and even having classes.
In modern society, we have to recognized that every space that people occupy is an educational space, when they are at home education is happening, when they are on the streets education is happening, when we are in the faith community education is happening, so we have to model what we want to reinforce. We also must prop up what is lacking, some faith communities are providing opportunities that have been taken away because of lack of funding in the education setting. They are taking cultural field trips with students and they are investing in the arts and music, because our state budgets don’t have enough for those programs; faith communities can offset that.
[ Stephany Spaulding, your passion for education and the community shows strong and has touched the lives of many. Lots of people have lots of experience, but it is your experience coupled with the heart that you have for education, that causes tangible change to take place. We salute you. ]