As a child, I was sheltered and did not travel much beyond our rural community. Although I was a black girl from a poverty-stricken family, I didn’t understand my limitations until I started school.
The first day of kindergarten will forever be embedded in my memory. I walked into a class filled with students. I remember that day so well because I had this feeling in the pit of my stomach that I was not “good enough” as I noticed all of the perceived perfections of the students that surrounded me. I compared the worn-out clothes that I was wearing to the new clothes that everyone else was wearing. I was fascinated by the new clothes and lunch kits that everyone else possessed.
I remember being mesmerized by my teacher who spoke perfect English and wore pretty clothes. I compared her to the ladies I had seen in the movies and on the soap operas. I wanted desperately for her to like me, but to my chagrin, our relationship started out rough.
It all started when it was time to take up lunch money. I remember squirming in my seat because my mother had not given me any lunch money. When my name was called, I hesitated and I remember being scared.
After my teacher repeated my name several times, I finally responded that I did not have any lunch money, nor had I brought my lunch. She then said, “You’re probably on free lunch” in the most hateful voice. I knew immediately from the tone of her voice that being on free lunch was not a good thing. This is how my first day of kindergarten started. My first day of kindergarten ended even worse. We were on the playground when a black boy called me “blackie” and caused all of the other students to laugh and mock me. I cried. Actually, I cried a lot that year.
Thankfully, kindergarten was my last experience with a teacher who I felt didn’t like me. Throughout my elementary school years, I excelled in school and worked fervently to meet my teachers’ expectations. One thing I know for sure is that life’s experiences can either make you bitter or better.
As I prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday and reflect on my entry into public education as a kindergartner, I am thankful that I was born in America. Although freedom is not free, all have the opportunity to attain a free, appropriate public education. I am thankful for education and that I get to live the American dream in spite of the circumstances and obstacles I have had to overcome as a result of being born into a family with limited resources.
I am thankful for the opportunity to serve in Lufkin ISD as the superintendent. Each day, I work fervently as your Superintendent of Schools, to ensure that all of our students have access to a quality, 21st century education. I feel extremely blessed to work with a Board of Trustees who is committed “to educate and equip all students for success through exceptional learning experiences” and work with administrators, teachers, and staff who are passionate about the work of educating our future leaders. I am thankful to all of the business and community leaders who have joined Team Lufkin ISD in our efforts. I am thankful that all internal and external stakeholders have accepted me for who I am and not how I started in kindergarten.