By Patricia Nicolas
Every day, Boston parents entrust the 4,505 teachers in the Boston Public School system to educate their children, according to district statistics. These teachers come from various backgrounds, races and ages. Although the teachers are united in educating Boston children, some younger teachers feel their youth sets them apart.
“Sometimes teachers do not think I am qualified for some of the things I do at my school because I just started teaching,” said Ashley Porter, a teacher at Roxbury Preparatory School.
Porter started her career as a teacher two years ago. She attended Spelman College in Atlanta where she majored in psychology. Up until her senior year of high school, she wanted to be a pediatrician. But after her best friend was shot and killed while walking to school, she knew she had to come back and help influence the young black men in the Boston Public School system.
But as part of the younger demographic of teachers in the Boston Public School system, she has encountered challenges. These challenges do not come from her students, she noted, but rather her colleagues who underestimate her.
“There was a time when my principal recognized me for having the strongest homeroom in the school,” Porter said. “The older teachers were appalled. It was like they were in disbelief. They couldn’t accept that someone who was much younger and newer could have such an achievement.”
Deserea Turner, a science teacher at the John W. McCormick School in Dorchester, shared a similar experience.
Turner is passionate about what she does and that translates in her work with her students. However, due to her age she knows her passion is not enough to gain the respect of the older teachers.
“I have had success teaching my students in my science class. They listen to me and respect me. There was another teacher who was older and she was having trouble with her science class. The students just wouldn’t listen to her. I offered to give her some help and a few pointers and she completely dismissed me. She looked at me like I was crazy. I knew it was because of my age.”
Turner has been teaching for two years. Her passion for teaching comes from her experience as a student in the Boston Public Schools.
“It wasn’t until I was in the 11th grade that I started to care about my future. I had a teacher who mentored me. Before she came along, I was failing and doing very poorly in school. She changed my life,” she said. “I knew I had to do the same which is why I am doing what I do now.”
But this mindset may not be one that is shared with all older teachers. Shirley Lane has been teaching for over 20 years. She loves to interact with new teachers. She believes that they give her a new way to look at things.
“I love having them. It gives me a new perspective on things I would have never imagined.”
Despite their experiences, Porter and Turner do not allow their difficulties to stop them from doing their job.
“I’m not doing this for them. I do this for my students,” said Porter.