New Lessons for Our Classrooms - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise Magazine January-March 2019 Issue

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From kindergarten to 12th grade, Will Thomas never had a black male teacher and only once had a black female teacher. “I felt like we weren’t represented in the classroom, and it bothered me throughout my school experience,” says Thomas, referring to his years growing up in Ellenville, New York, a relatively diverse community.

Now a teacher in Prince George’s County Public Schools system in Maryland, Thomas, who has a bachelor of arts in social studies from the State University of New York at Albany and a master of arts in reading education from Bowie State University, took it upon himself to turn the tables.

He hasn’t limited his goal of being a role model to the classroom. Thomas, the 2008—2009 Prince George’s County Teacher of the Year, aims to teach students to perform at a higher level and prepare them for college. And he has made progress.

When he first started teaching Advanced Placement government at Dr. Henry A. Wise Junior High School in 2007–where 90% of the student body is African American–not one of his students attained an acceptable score of 3, 4, or 5 on the AP exam. His initial reaction was to blame the students, but he realized that would be taking the easy way out.

So he raised the bar for himself. In 2010, 23 of his 88 students passed the exam with acceptable scores; and he’s seen a marked increase among the young black men. That improvement could be attributed to a number of things: the tutoring time he added during and after school; the workshops he attended to improve his teaching strategies; his requirement that parents attend field trips with students; or the political activities he engaged in himself.

But Thomas, a national board certified teacher, didn’t stop there. He worked during evenings and summers to assist with curriculum writing for the PGCPS social studies office, and each day, including weekends, he spends an additional two to three hours above the contracted workday grading and preparing lesson plans. In addition to his classroom obligations, Thomas volunteers after school as a mock trial coach, and he runs an online investment club for students.

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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.