05 Dec Featured Educator: Rachael Mingo in Flint, MI
CT3 Associates working across the U.S. regularly meet educators that demonstrate a deep commitment to transforming the lives of youth, some remaining committed to the same communities in which they themselves grew up. Rachael Mingo at Beecher Middle School in Flint, MI is one of those extraordinary educators – as a 5th grade teacher in her eighth year of being an educator, Rachael was born and raised in Beecher, the same neighborhood that her students reside. She stands out as an excellent teacher that tirelessly provides the same structure, support, and care for her scholars that she experienced when she was a Beecher student. We recently spoke with Rachael about her success as a teacher and her hopes for her students.
Rachael decided on a career in education while she was still in in high school because she found enjoyment in helping her fellow classmates in math. Growing up in a single parent home with a mother on welfare and limited resources, she faced many of the same challenges that her students today are facing outside of the classroom: not having a coat in the winter, walking to school due to a lack of transportation, utilities being turned off, and often going without a solid meal at home. When reflecting on her ability to achieve despite these personal challenges, she credits her success to the support that she received from teachers at school – emotional and financial. For example, Rachael remembers a teacher who sold a vehicle to her mother for just one dollar so that Rachael and her family could have reliable transportation. She remembers regular food and clothing donations to her home from teachers. She also recalls that, when she was admitted to college, that her teachers donated money for her registration, tuition, and books.
Rachael strives to be the same kind of teacher for her students today. She understands first-hand that every student goes challenges and experience challenges that are greater than the classroom.
When facing students that experience many challenges at home, Rachael rises to the occasion. She shows her students deep, critical care by being a No-Nonsense Nurturer and finds it crucially important to resist enabling her students. Rachael learned that same lesson from her teachers – when she was growing up, her teachers held her accountable for completing schoolwork while they simultaneously reached out to her to sustain her. Rachael does not give her students “a crutch.” She shows them that, despite the myriad of challenges that they may be going through, she expects great achievement from each of them, making sure they are successful in the classroom. She ties her support to their futures – how will they be able to remain focused and persevere when they have a job and a family? Rachael ensures that students remain successful in their students even through periods of struggle and she works with them to create plans to maintain their achievement.
Rachael makes it a point to make personal connections with her students, building relationships with her students every day that, as her teachers did for her, can alter the trajectory of their lives. In order to build these deep, rewarding relationships, Rachael invites certain students or small groups to eat lunch with her in the classroom and she uses the time to connect and enjoy non-academic chats – about their futures, their interests, or anything that is on their mind. Wishing she had known of community resources while she was young, Rachael makes use of the time to make her students aware of free resources and activities in the community.
Having been an educator for eight years and counting, what would Rachael tell a first-year teacher working with students in traditionally disenfranchised communities? She said, “It’s really important to understand the kids’ story before we try to open our books and teach them.” She often shares her background with her students and wants educators to know that it is equally important to understand their students’ backgrounds. Moreover, this does not have to take a lot of time; it can be as easy as sitting down and getting to know one thing about each student. “This gives you one connection point that is the beginning – you’re able to talk to them about math if you talk about one thing that interests them. Make them feel like a person, not just a person in the classroom.”
There is one key thing that Rachael wants her students to take away from being in her classroom. “We all have challenges but we can advance in those challenges. We wouldn’t be able to climb a mountain if wasn’t for the stones that stuck out.”
Thank you Rachael for your dedication to serving the students of Flint, MI. We’re proud to continue our partnership with Beecher Community School District!