Theresa Grimm once said, “Without teacher appreciation there can’t be any student progress.”
On Thursday, April 21, the Barnes & Noble located at 106 Court St. in Brooklyn held the 2016 Barnes & Noble My Favorite Teacher ceremony to honor local winner, Shola Roberts from Grenada; dance teacher at School of Integrated Learning in Brower Park, Brooklyn. The contest ran from Jan. 4 until March 1, and gave middle and high school students the opportunity to tell their communities just how much they appreciate their teachers. Students nominated their favorite teacher by writing essays, poems or thank-you letters that shared how their teacher had influenced their life and why they appreciated and admired their teacher. Guyanese-born Ashley Medouze, one of Roberts prized students, wrote the winning nomination essay; she received a certificate of recognition and was also honored at the ceremony.
Ashley came to the School of Integrated Learning in the beginning of the school year. She was shy and unsure of herself, but Roberts saw potential in the young student and took Ashley under her wing. “Ms. Roberts was the very first one that ever made me feel comfortable. She made me feel welcomed and invited me in without judgments,” she said.
On being the recipient of the 2016 Barnes & Noble My Favorite Teacher award, Roberts said, “I’m overwhelmed. When you’re doing your craft, you don’t think that it will have such an impact; you’re just being passionate about what you’ve been put on this earth to do. To see that manifest through a student speaks volumes.”
She also talked about how such an honor reaffirms that she is walking in her calling as an educator. “It definitely reinforces that for me because there are days when you will have to deal with kids who are defiant, but moments like these help me to say to myself ‘hold steadfast’ because someone looked out for me; someone created opportunities and an atmosphere for me to grow and succeed. I feel that this is the duty of not only educators, but also friends and family to help people be their best,” said Roberts.
Roberts speaking on maintaining bonds with students, said, “It’s funny, I always thought that I would be on Broadway, but I realized that I have a deeper calling to teach and to inspire. I would say that even when we think to go off track or drift apart, the Creator always has a way of bringing you back to your calling and the people who are important in your life. I believe that he’s going to make sure that we stay connected.”
Monique Campbell, principal of the School of Integrated Learning, has nothing but gratitude and admiration for Shola Roberts. “Think of how interesting it is that a dance teacher touches the life of a youngster. We’re not talking about a math teacher or an ELA teacher. Here we have a dance teacher who is allowing our boys and girls to fly, to soar, to be themselves and embrace difference. Ms. Roberts provided that for Ashley. We thank her for showing what a teacher ought to be in a child’s life,” she said.
“I know that this is a relationship that is just not for today. I know that even when Ashley graduates, she will carry these small talks and moments shared with Ms. Roberts and I also know that she’s not the only student; I know that if Ashley feels this way, that other young lives in the school are being touched molded and for this we are thankful,” she added.
Ashley, when asked about the enduring relationship between her and Ms. Roberts, simply said, “The bond will never be broken. I’m always going to need her help and guidance and the friendship will never go away.”