LCMC’s Denise Hill on Education, Black History, and the Intersection of Both

February 27th, 2019

In recognition of Black History Month, we are featuring a guest blog post from Denise Hill, our Director of Community Impact, who reminds us that Black History is not just to be celebrated and made in February, but all year round, and that historical inequality is not just to be regarded as a thing of the past, but to be confronted, especially by educators, every single day.

Black History Month, for me, has always been something to honor and celebrate. At times, however, it has also seemed like just a school theme for projects and reports during the month of February.

When you are Black in America and in a family of activists, educators, and relatives who openly share their stories of running from the Klan or being sprayed by water hoses, then you yourself grow up being followed around stores because you’re the only Black patron, for example, you begin to focus less on Black History and more on the state of the Black community now and in the future. It is tough, because you cannot neglect paying homage to the ones that came before you and blazed trails even if it cost them their lives in hopes that future generations could go just a little further. At the same time, if the fight is not continued, we as a community can remain marginalized and regress to being further excluded from society.

My goal is to help change lives. For me, I do not care the color of the person I am impacting or teaching, or if they look like me. I just care whether or not they left my presence having learned something they did not know before our encounter. Are they better having come in contact with me, or not? Being an educator in 2019 means being a gateway to options. Educators, whether in the classroom, one-on-one, as a mentor, etc, give students insight and information about the possibilities so they know how best to achieve their goals in the most effective way possible.

Being a woman of color, I understand more intimately the challenges facing African American students and women of color because that is Me. I am extremely conscious of the benefits of the education I am imparting to them; not just for themselves, but also for their entire family and ultimately the community. Education is the key to closing the poverty gap. Those most impacted by poverty in this country are disparagingly African Americans, women, specifically from urban communities. Because I know and have lived that reality, I tend to attract that student population and have, consequently, had my greatest successes there.

Still, for me (and much to the dismay of some of my past administrators/principals), anyone who is in front of me and willing to learn, is who I teach.

I teach because I have always been addicted to helping people “get it.” You know… that thing that is holding them back from moving forward, reaching their goal, or finding general success that they just can’t figure out? I was that person in school for years.

Reading was always a challenge for me. In high school, I found myself labeled SLRD (Slow Learning Reading Disability) and placed in Special Ed. To have a teacher tell me that I wasn’t ‘smart enough’ to be in classes with my friends crushed me. I knew I could get it. I knew I was capable. Maybe my method or process looked different than another student’s, but whatever was being taught, whatever I needed to know or do, I knew I could get it… and I did. I became successful personally, professionally, and even academically acquiring advanced degrees and graduating college with high honors. I learned strategies and encountered people who were patient enough to work with me until I could “get it.”

Now, I use teaching to empower others who have been marginalized, made to feel less than, or labeled and dismissed like I was. When I teach and I see a student struggle with a math problem or a reading passage, then I offer them a strategy or a new perspective and they GET IT, it affects me.

It is beyond rewarding.

Denise Hill
Director of Community Impact