About Mr. Earhart
As we discussed in class, it’s important for us to get to know each other. It will help the learning of our class.
It’s important for y’all to know who I am and why I teach. I’ve always loved the ESPY speech of Jim Valvano. In accepting the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage, Valvano established a framing of…
- Where you come from
- Where you are
- Where you want to be
It’s a simple framing, but it’s one that I’ll attempt to utilize in this post. Hopefully it’ll be somewhat sensical. :)
First watch this video for some visual context…
Where I come from is inextricably linked to my involvement with the Students as Teachers Program. I grew-up in St. James, Missouri; a town of 3,500 people. For the most part, I had a wonderful childhood.
My mom is the rock of our family. There were some dark days in our family’s past, but I was too young to be overly impacted by them. My childhood was full of encouragement, support, and opportunity. Mom read to me every night before I went to bed, and some of my first memories are of practicing math flashcards with her. My privilege continued with the addition of my step-father, Ron, at the age of 6. Ron is one of the most sweet and gentle men you will ever meet. His willingness to unconditionally love a child that was not his own provided me with a level of support that all children deserve.
Ron and Mom are as blue collar as it gets. Mom has worked as a dental assistant in our hometown for nearly her entire career. When I was in elementary school, Ron worked two jobs. By day he was the maintenance man for a local hotel, and by night he was the janitor of a nearby middle school. Ron eventually became the head custodian of a high school. He worked from 7 AM until 11 PM so that I could have basketball shoes, attend camps, and so that my elder brother, Jeremy could attend college. Mom and Ron gave all they had to ensure that Jeremy and I were successful. They never missed a football game, choir concert, art show, etc. Mom even volunteered on Wednesday afternoons at the library of our elementary school. She continued to do such for over a decade after I graduated. Talk about role models. Child please!
Then there’s Jeremy. Earhart the Elder (by 8 years) was the first in our extended family to graduate from college. With a degree in painting from the Memphis College of Art, Jeremy moved to New York after graduation and lived in Brooklyn for 11 years. It’s not always easy for Earhart the Elder; life as an artist is a roller coaster. He’s sold sculptures for $40,000 and he’s been homeless. But he’s never sacrificed his integrity as an artist. Jeremy is committed to creative expression, and his ability to take risks has inspired me to continually expand my comfort zone. Jeremy was directly involved with the dark days of our family’s past; his story is one of what is possible. He’s the most influential person in my life and my best friend. He is the person who always tells me what I need to hear, not necessarily what I want to hear. And he know lives in Austin. If you ever venture across the street to Galaxy Cafe, Jeremy is responsible for the art on the walls.
I tell you all of the above not with the purpose of tugging at heartstrings. The above is evidence of the extreme amount of encouragement, support and love I’ve received in my life. I would not be where I am today without the endless number of people who have helped me along the way. Why do I teach social studies? It might have something to do with Barb Smith, my high school history teacher. Why did I teach AVID (more on that later)? It might have something to do with Bob Smith (Barb’s main squeeze) who served as my counselor and coach. These people, and many others, cared for me in way that I have spent a decade of my career trying to repay. And, if ye’ are honest with yourselves, you’ll probably find a long list of folks that have supported y’all in your respective journeys up to this point.
Where I am… well… sometimes I feel like I have to pinch myself just to make sure that life is real. Having taken my first flight at the age of 19, in which I saw the ocean for the first time, I have somehow managed to travel throughout Europe, Mexico, and South America, meet the President, buy a house, be named Teacher of the Year for all of Austin ISD, and star as Mother Ginger in the Nutcracker. It’s been a crazy ride. For the most part, AVID is responsible.
A.V.I.D. Advancement via Individual Determination. Life changing.
In the Spring of 2008 my educational mama, Donna Houser, called me into her office to speak with me about a program called Advancement Via Individual Determination. Ms.Houser told me that this program was designed to help students go to college; she explained that someone was needed to revamp and reinvigorate a program that had fallen into disarray. I recruited a single section of 20 students from a feeder middle school. I promised these students that if they wanted to be the first in their family to graduate from college that AVID was the program, and I the teacher, for them. I hadn’t a clue of how I was going to deliver on this promise. I just kept telling these students that they were going to graduate from college; that they belonged in the advanced classes with their more affluent peers. “Keep working; keep your head up. Be proud of yourself. You will make it. I promise.” At best I was a naive optimist; at worst, a flat-out liar. But the more I said it, the more I believed it. I became increasingly committed to ensuring that these students defied the odds.
And, for the most part, it worked. Last year’s cohort of 34 AVID graduates obtained over $1.7 million in scholarships and financial aid. The Class of 2015 was the first AVID class that I did not directly instruct. The previous class of 2014 was the third group of AVID students for which I had the honor of teaching for all 4 years of high school. They are, and may forever be, my greatest achievement in education.
My AVID students are family; words will never accurately express the bond that we share. Nearly everything I know about education I have learned from these students. Our AVID Program now serves over 175 students across 9 sections. Most of my accomplishments in education are a result of advocating for my AVID babies.
The Anderson Tutoring Center was born out of a group of AVID students and their friends who would stay in my room after school to complete homework. I decided that if I was going to stay at school until Dulce could catch the #19 Southbound at 6:32, I might as well invite other students to join us. I found out where most of the students that attended our school via transfer lived, made a bus route on Google Maps, and then begged my educational mama for funding. Like a good mama, Donna Houser delivered. All of a sudden there were 45 kids trying to cram into my room after school. It was chaos! So we moved to the library, and mama delivered on some funds for tutors. The Anderson Tutoring Center now serves over 80 students each afternoon; it’s staffed with 10 tutors, 2 supervising teachers, and is served by two buses to ensure more equitable access for students who live far from 78759.
Many of our students struggle as they transition to high school, especially our students that attend Anderson via transfer. Without systematic supports, the rigors of Anderson can quickly overwhelm these students. The model of one teacher for every thirty students is a failed model; students need more individualized supports in order to succeed. Our Students as Teachers Program exists to provide these supports. SATs are upper-level students trained to provide classroom supports in core content areas for freshmen and sophomores. Again, my educational mama asked me if I was interested in creating and managing this program. I said yes. This year we have over 115 SATs providing assistance to our students in a similar capacity to that of an inclusion support specialist. This program also offers SATs the opportunity to view education through a different lens, through the eyes of the teacher. Some SATs will pursue a career in education and it thrills to me to be associated with the development of educators. I presented the benefits of our Students as Teacher Program at the Texas Career Education Conference last February; many schools are interested in adopting this model.
I serve as the Chair for a Social Studies Department of twenty teachers. I’m in charge of hiring, assigning sections, professional development, and student supports for our team. I’ve initiated collaboration with several nonprofits such as Austin Bat Cave, UT Outreach, Breakthrough Austin, and Attendance Records. For two summers I served as an Instructional Coach for Breakthrough Austin, an organization that taught me the true meaning of the word “community.” And I’m a founding board member of Attendance Records, an organization that promotes creative expression through a do-it-yourself approach to creating an album. Our mission is to expose traditionally underserved students to the arts; we currently serve AVID students at Reagan, Kealing, LBJ and L.C. Anderson.
Most of these collaborative endeavors have developed organically, founded on strong relationships with people who care about our youth. They’ve taught me a simple and core educational philosophy: “the more caring adults in the lives of our students, the better.”
Never underestimate the power of being someone who cares
Where I want to be… I want to run a school. You may have even noticed a bit of a change in tone/flow in the last section, as I stole most of the phrasing from my application to the University of Texas at Austin Principalship Program. I’m currently in graduate school to become a principal. Sadly, this school year might be my last in the classroom. If all goes according to plan, I’ll be an assistant principal at this time next year. I will miss teaching, but I have a burning desire to create systems of support for traditionally marginalized students. My own story and the stories of my AVID students have taught me that all students can be successful if the right systems are put into place. I’m not sure what the future holds, but I know that I’ll be an educator for life.
The solutions to the woes of our educational system are not complicated; they merely require the dedication of time and resources and a rejection of the status quo.
Your assignment: Tell us where you come from, where you are, and where you want to be. You do not need to be as detailed as the above. The better we know each other, the better we’ll be able to collaborate and learn. And feel free to ask questions about me and our course; I look forward to interacting with y’all and learning what makes each of y’all tick.