A Children’s Story

A personal tribute and reflection on the importance of mentorship by Stacey James McAdoo

“Lead the Way” acrylic painting by Leron McAdoo

“And how are the children?” was a standard question Aunt Cozetta asked every time we spoke on the phone. My answer was always, “Perfect.” She got a kick out of me saying so especially on the days when I knew that she knew their behavior didn’t accurately reflect it. It didn’t matter if when she asked I was currently on the twenty-ninth minute of hiding in the bathroom because I needed some peace from JEM and Sonshine’s curiosity and creativity – the answer was always the same. The children, my children (who are a little less than two years apart with a lot of differences in gender, personality and learning styles), were perfect and I knew so because they were healthy, alive and thriving in their own way.

A year or so after my first year in the classroom, I reluctantly stumbled upon my educational mentor, Ms. Marie Parker. At the time she was the Director of Great Expectations of Arkansas and the Arkansas A+ Network. And although she never met my Aunt Cozetta they were similar in many regards. Like Aunt Cozetta her salutations were led with the same “And how are the children?” greeting. Ms. Marie’s question, however, extended beyond an inquiry about my biological ones. Her question was akin to the Maasai people. She was asking about the welfare of all the children… in my classroom…in my community…in my life…and how I was working to improve it.

There are all types of lists out there with defining qualities of what makes a good leader. No matter the criteria you settle on, a leader cannot exist without a follower. And I became hers the first day we met.  It was not because we were of the same gender, the same ethnicity or wore the same hairstyle (a short afro at a time when naturals were not widely accepted or as common as they are today). Although admittedly those were the hooks that immediately drew me in. What kept me were the meaningful and relevant ways in which she maintained my engagement.

She led with a quiet assuredness that made me pay close attention to the things she didn’t say. Respect and relationships were at the heart of her guiding principles. You could tell by her eyes, the attentiveness in her body language and the reflective questions she asked that she was sincere and authentic. She was a proverb speaking sage who made me want to work hard…to peel the layers… to dig deep and give her my all even when I thought I had nothing left to offer.

As a novice and non-traditional educator, she took me under her wing and introduced me to theories that helped me name what my spirit-self already knew. She invested in me and provided opportunities for me to grow not just as a learner or leader but as a facilitator — and more importantly as a person. Even though she lived over 200 miles away and was not affiliated with the Pathways Mentoring Program offered through my district, Ms. Parker knew more about me, my strengths/weaknesses and what was going on in my classroom than any of my colleagues and evaluators that I shared a building with.

So how are the children? They are brilliant and resilient beyond measure. And as long as there are still educators who learned from, under or were influenced by Ms. Marie Parker serving as educational leaders, policymakers and classroom practitioners I am confident that all the children are well.

In honor of National Mentoring Month, leave a comment or share a story about your mentor. Then, if they are still alive and/or around, reach out to them to let them know they are appreciated.

*Stacey James McAdoo, the 2019 Arkansas Teacher of the Year (affectionately referred to as 2019ATOY), is a 16 year Oral Communication instructor, AVID Coordinator and sponsor of the spoken word collective called Writeous Poets from Little Rock, Arkansas. She teaches at the historic Little Rock Central High School where she is the living embodiment of her ATOY platform of using passion and poetry to close the opportunity gap.*

18 thoughts on “A Children’s Story

  1. Veronica Jackson January 10, 2019 — 1:59 pm

    Ms. Marie Parker sounds like an exceptional leader!!! My current mentor/person I’m gleaning from is the First Lady of my church, Cora Withers! She has been a guiding light for me as I navigate the life of being a wife, daughter, sister, friend, and mother(in waiting).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ms. Withers, I’m sure, is a beautiful beacon of light. I can’t imagine how she could be anything but that. You often hear the saying “iron sharpens iron”. And in that same vain, I believe “light attracts light”. And you, my dear, have always been a shining light of love, grace and compassion.

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  2. Stacey this is such a true assessment of Ms. Marie! I’ll bet she made many feel blessed by her attentive and personal interaction with EACH person she mentored. Her interest is genuine. With all of her knowledge and wisdom, she always remained humble. I never understood why I was allowed to be empowered to work with Great Expectations of Arkansas, but I’m eternally grateful!!! One of the best strategies I learned from her is to reflect and dig deeper.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. She was/is the queen of reflective practice…and promoting trusting relationships. I sure miss working with her!

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  3. This is beautiful. I think we all have educators who have mentored or influenced us in some way. Mine was my middle school principal, Mrs. Darlene Shepherd, whose daughter (Celya) was and still is one of my best friends. Mrs. shepherd never taught me, but she encouraged and motivated me. She was always there while I was going through college, guiding me through the process. When I began teaching, the “how are the children” question inevitably came up. She was quick to offer advice and words of wisdom. Mrs. Shepherd has passed away, but her wise words will never be forgotten.

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    1. Mrs. Shepherd sounds like she was indeed a wonderful encouraging motivator. When you become friends with the family, you know you’re in and that the person definitely loves you.

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  4. I have had many, throughout the years and in different capacities. One of the most influential, continues to be so, is Mary Burbank. My association with her is through the University of Utah Urban Institute for Teacher Education, where she is currently Assistant Dean for Tracher Education. Our relationship spans more than 2 decades and began when a student teacher chose me to be her cooperating teacher, and then another, and another, and on and on to equal a dozen. Five years ago Mary invited me to teach an intro education class for UITE. Me? I couldn’t believe it! And immediately doubted myself, until… I had the realization that Mary believed I could do it and I know Mary wouldn’t have even asked had she not believed I could deliver quality instruction. That’s all it took before one class led to another, and another, and even a couple we co-taught as a a team. Talk about living a dream! I try to be that person for my students, a teacher that recognizes their talents and believes in them until they can believe in themselves.

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    1. Dean Burbank sounds like an amazing person. Just from our limited online interaction, I am positive that you are to your students what she is to you. I’m looking forward to connecting with you in person one day soon.

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  5. An inspiring teacher who has changed my life for the better would be Ashia Jackson . The transition from Middle School to High School was a rough one for me but with the help of Mrs. Jackson, I was able to have a successful academic career. She is not only a phenomenal teacher, she is also an amazing mentor who has been become my role model. Mrs. Jackson does not allow the number of students she has to overwhelm her, which happens to be a unique characteristic. She still goes above and beyond her abilities to get to know every single student and develop a relationship with them. The greatest lesson I have learned from Mrs. Jackson is to never allow anyone to stand in the way of what I want. She took note of my hard working abilities but noticed something that I didn’t even see myself, which was how I allowed others to tell me what I could not do, rather that listen to my own mind. Now, a Junior in college, I honestly could not have made it this far without having Mrs. Jackson in my life, pushing and encouraging me to be whoever I desired to be. For that, I am forever grateful.

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    1. I’m so glad that Mrs Jackson came into your life when she did. I cannot imagine a Jimeria who doesn’t listen to her own mind. Continue to let your light shine and to dance to your own drum my dear, sweet, beautiful, brilliant one. Know that your AVID families at Fair and Central are extremely proud of the woman you are becoming.

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  6. Lisa McKuin Neihouse January 15, 2019 — 12:54 pm

    I am a teacher – 35 years in the classroom. My biggest mentor / leader was a former teacher I had – Mr. James Anderson. I had him for Trig. at Morrilton High School in 1978-79. The man could bring you to your knees with his drive and his expectation of setting the bar high. But he worked so hard to know his students and love his students. When he passed away about 3 years ago – hundreds and I mean hundreds- of students paid tribute to him on Facebook. But Mr. Anderson made you feel like you were the most important one in the room.

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    1. It must be something about those math teachers!! He sounds a lot like my Mr. Frank Baker (my junior high algebra teacher who is now one of my most esteemed colleagues). Thanks for sharing!

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  7. Le'Darrien Ledbetter January 15, 2019 — 1:28 pm

    Not only a was she a teacher/ coach for me, but also someone that l considered to be a mentor is Ms. Stephanie Berry Mann. From the very first day that I walked into her Communications class my freshman year I knew that she was someone I’d always be able to look up to. To this day she has been all that and more. She taught me how to really be a better me. Helped me with my self-confidence, communication skills, my image, and so much more. When I think of positivity in my life, I think of Ms. Mann. I rarely see her without a smile on her face, and when she doesn’t it’s probably because she’s teared up because someone has made her happy. On the court as my coach, she always motivated me to be a better player and never give up. I can’t begin to describe how sad I was when I finished her course my freshman year, but I quickly turned that sadness into joyfulness when I found out the she would be my tennis coach. Ms. Mann is as humble, down to earth, motivational, all around amazing as they come. I could write forever about some of our memories together, but she, as well as, her family will always have a very special place in my heart and I can’t thank her enough for everything she’s done for me and taught me.

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    1. I have started, revised and deleted my reply to this several times now. Nothing I type will ever match or do justice to the beautifully penned words that you shared about Mrs Mann. Well done, Le’Darrien. Well done. You, my dear, sweet, beautiful, brilliant former student slash now junior in college who is destined for greatest is truly one of a kind.

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  8. In my last two years at LRCH I met my mentor Rex Deloney , who inspired me to believe in myself artistically and equipped-me with the skill set to paint portraits and many other things that I never thought possible (I’m his prodigy y’all, he transformed ya girl). I am forever grateful for his uplifting humorous spirit (have y’all met this man? He’s hilarious), as well the life lessons he has shared with me and many other students. Mr. Deloney’s doors were always open for students who wanted to improve or take extra time on assignments (even during his prep period, whew y’all go home). Not only was he dedicated to his students but he was dedicated to his own artwork. In retrospect watching this has inspired my current artistic endeavors the most. Thank you Mr. Deloney👴🏿, I paint aggressively now, I still drown my brushes and you’re a nice lady.😇🌸

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    1. What a nice tribute to a even nicer man. Mr. Deloney is indeed the truth — he has mad artistic skills (and so do you)!!!! I’m looking forward to purchasing more of your art. I can’t wait until you have an exhibit. Matter of fact, I need you to go ahead and open up your own studio.

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  9. Roberta McDuffy Collins January 17, 2019 — 6:53 pm

    She is no longer atound, but Tusie Warren was the first of many teachers who have impacted my life. Tusie taught first grade and did so for 42 years. I remember thinking how nuts she must have been to teach for that long. I have now passed her in years! I think I may be NUTS for real! Tusiehave me some valuable pieces of advice. 1. West comfortable shoes. 2. Buy a bottle of Listerine and use it. Listerine will kill anything. 3. and perhaps the most important…remember the nut doesn’t fall very far from the tree. The innocent that I was questioned that last one. ” Wait until you meet the parents. It will become clear to you why these children act like they do. ”
    I have held onto those wise words for all these years. I love ya, Miss Tusie and miss you even today. God bless.

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    1. Thank you for taking the time to share. 42+ years in the classroom/education is admirable … I tip my hat to you both!

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