EdCo Teacher Spotlight: Alecia Ford, and how teaching is better than cake.

J.T. Moore is home to some of the city’s finest educators and more than a few active members of The Educators’ Cooperative. Natalie Elliott (Cohort 3) sat down with Alecia Ford (Cohort 2) to shine a light on what makes her tick, her path to the classroom, and the role EdCo plays in her teaching life. Alecia organizes and facilitates our book club, she serves on the Advisory Committee, and has presented at The EdCo Summer Collective. It’s a beautiful story, and we are so grateful for both of their generosity with their leadership, time, and devotion for teaching and learning.

By Natalie Elloitt, JT Moore, 5th Grade ELA
I have the privilege of teaching down the hall from one of the best educators I know. Alecia Ford, a public school science teacher at JT Moore Middle in Nashville, is a wonderful advocate for all learners, not only the students in her room but also the fellow educators she influences. Here is a snapshot of her story in education.

How did you get into the field of education?

My first job after college was working for Pillsbury in manufacturing labs where we tested ingredients and products. I had a B.S. in Food Science. So many employees, especially women, would tell me that they weren’t good at math. I found I was good at scaffolding and explaining things in ways that made sense. At the same time, I started volunteering in a local 4th grade class once a week. The program, KAPOW – Kids and the Power of Work, was designed to make explicit connections between what students learn in school and what’s going on outside of school in the work world. 

I found that helping people realize what they could do was much more meaningful than making cake mix and frosting. So with a nod to supporting girls in math and science, I left Pillsbury after 8 years and went back to school for education. I was 30 when I got my M.Ed., teaching license, and my first teaching job.

What’s your best memory from your career?

One of the best things is seeing former students as adults. It’s super exciting to have a new student whose mom or dad I taught years ago! I want to be able to look that adult in the eye and know that I did my best for them and treated them with respect when they were an 11 or 12 year old child in my classroom.

What’s the most important advice you can give to novice educators?

I remember an epiphany from my first year: “just because I taught it, doesn’t mean they learned it.” My advice would be to try to keep a beginner’s mind, continuously improving your craft AND forgiving yourself for bad days. Be reflective about your practice and your implicit biases, and make self-care a priority by scheduling and protecting time for things that nourish your spirit. It’s true, you can’t pour out of an empty cup.

If you could change one aspect of education, what would it be?

I have been mulling this over…Here goes – I see school culture as a microcosm of the larger society. As such, without critical thinking, it just reinforces the problems our communities face: a culture that seeks to punish and blame instead of support and restore, where the quality of education a child receives is much too heavily influenced by socioeconomic status and zip code. This culture lifts high-stakes testing and accountability, heaping responsibilities on schools and teachers without providing necessary budgetary/staffing support for staff or students. Unfunded mandates and budgetary shortfalls, racial disparities in academics and discipline, gatekeeping and teaching to the test are NOT the best we can do. I want to work to inspire curiosity and self-determination in my students, in a safe, culturally and intellectually stimulating environment. Working toward that goal for ALL students in this climate is challenging. That’s the “one thing” I want to work toward fixing. And if I can’t fix it, at least I’ll be an obstacle to anything that’s not centered on what’s best for students. 

How does Educators Cooperative help you as an educator?

Simply, EdCo is both my self-care and professional network. Teachers who want more than the status quo, who want to continue to develop their craft and learn what’s new in education research, who are not satisfied to just get through the day can meet, collaborate, support and inspire each other. It has really been a lifeline for me these last two years. Being a teacher is hard, and it’s truly one of the most important jobs a person can do.

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