Living History Makers: Roberta Freeman, Ed.D., Chief Academic Officer
Every day, educators are making history through their selfless service to our communities. CT3 is recognizing some of these educators through Living History profiles to share their great work and powerful impact. This month, Women’s History Month, we highlight female Black educators who are making livinghistory.
We spoke with Roberta Freeman, Ed.D., Chief Academic Officer, Long Branch Public Schools, New Jersey.
What is your “Why” for working in education?
My “Why”? Three letters, one syllable, however, no single identifiable “Why” is easy to answer. “Why” is as organic as the person it lives inside. My “Why” lies In the beautiful eyes of every child. Innocence, purpose, beauty, grace, the sweet smiles upon their face. Love, joy, strength, reverence, and resilience with unrelenting perseverance. Confident, courageous, diligent, ambitious, inventive, instinctive, adaptable, and propitious.
Their dreams not to be deferred, a promise for the many voices unheard. WHY? W-H-Y? Reframed and reimagined is We Honor You with the passionate calling on our lives forged in magnanimous fortitude. We honor you, we see you, we hear you, we love you, we cry — not for you — but with you. We educate you, we fight for you. For when we do, essentially, we are honoring our child who resides inside of each of us. The child who began this journey long ago, the she in me, operates abundantly and exceedingly beyond the status quo. No ego, vehemence, Yes! My W-H-Y is empathetic, kinetic, and fearlessly unapologetic. It is the HILL I CLIMB, it is the wind beneath my wings, It is why Dr. Angelou’s caged bird sings. My why, is the children whom with gratitude I serve, so they can discover the WHY that they rightfully deserve.
What do you hope for the future of education? How do you work to contribute to that future?
My hope for education is that we teardown the political systems designed to keep the marginalized, marginalized. I hope more people stand up and get into good trouble, not to feed their egos like many do, but to do the REAL work that needs to be done. Many are called but the chosen are few!
What is a personal, non-work passion of yours?
Even in my personal life I am passionate about teaching. I am a mentor to many aspiring educators wishing to become administrators. I coach doctoral candidates to be senior level administrators that they themselves have never seen before (shoutout to Cohort 11 at Kean University). I love to write and I love music. Music is truly my love language.
What or who should we be reading, watching, or listening to right now?
Truthfully, I am listening to D-Nice. During this global pandemic, he has blessed us with Club Quarantine. His sets feed my soul and prophesy of brighter days. I also find myself listening to the works of the late great Marvin Gaye. The album What’s Going On includes timeless classics (Save the Children, Mercy, Mercy Me, Inner City Blues) that are apropos to what is (still) occurring in our world.
I love watching the works of Ava DuVernay. After seeing 13th I wanted to leave education and be part of her research team who brought the truths of that documentary to life (that’s how inspired I was by the work of her research team). She is telling the stories of-the-people for-the-people. I am reading multiple books, and I am destined to finish them all in this lifetime (insert laughing emoji). I am a HUGE fan of the works of Dr. Christopher Emdin. Where were the “Dr. Emdin’s” when I began this journey some 27 years ago? Urban education is a creative art form that requires non-traditional pedagogy. Dr. Emdin eloquently weaves the science of teaching with the art of instruction to produce a masterpiece in K-12 education.
What is the best piece of coaching you’ve ever received?
BE YOU! As a young central office administrator, no one looked like me. No one talked like me or conducted a meeting the way I envisioned doing it. Most (if not all) of my presentations include some type of music and may or may not require participants to bust a move. Why? Because I am being me.
I combine my passion for music with my work, the same way I did in the classroom. Just last year I had a roomful of assistant superintendents dancing in a Soul Train line to Rob Base and DJ Easy Rock to stress the point that it takes two (in this case a consortia of districts) to make a thing go right. In the words of Steve Arrington of Slave, “Nobody can be you but you.” Don’t question yourself or conform to an already crowded space! Create your own space and fervently practice the gospel according to Nike.
Thank you for sharing your prose and your leadership, Dr. Freeman!
CT3 transforms the quality and culture of education for youth, especially those in traditionally disenfranchised communities.