Have you thanked a teacher that made a difference in your life recently? Three months ago, I had an incredible opportunity to do just that, and it seems it was just in time.
This past February, one of my clients needed me to teach at a conference in Houston. Houston is only a couple of hours from my family, and since I live in Puerto Rico, I really wanted to get home even if for a quick visit. Not that I needed to pitch a deal to wrap in personal time on my travel, but I asked NAPE if I could give our full length STEM Career Workshop at my alma mater. Even though I developed the workshop, they own it, so I had to ask permission before going rouge. I offered to arrange the workshop, and teach for free, in an effort to give back to my community. Without surprise, NAPE said OK, and I worked with the Superintendent of Little Cypress Mauriceville School District, Pauline Hargrove, to arrange the workshop around my trip.
Pauline Hargrove was my elementary principal, then she was my high school principal, before becoming Superintendent of the school my senior year. Dr. Hargrove is a woman I have looked up to and admired for her incredible leadership skills since I was literally, a child. And though I was but one student in her school, she knows me, and for that I am honored.
When I arrived at LCM on February 26, 2013, I didn’t know what to expect or who to expect. I imagined I would know some of the people attending, and I was right. It is a pretty small town after all. First of all, I couldn’t believe that Dr. Hargrove attended. Second, my high school chemistry teacher, THE woman responsible for directing me on my life path post high school, and now the high school principal, Dr. Terri Estes, was also in attendance. Third, Mrs. Brigitte Mangham, my seventh grade math teacher, and teacher that I aided for in 8th grade was there. There were others that I knew, counselors, teachers, etc, but these three women were strong influences on my life and my trajectory as a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) professional.
The workshop was probably my BEST delivery ever, and I’ve presented that information some thirty plus times. I was passionate, and connected with my audience, most likely because I had never felt more proud to be a product of LCM and my hometown of Orange.
One of the stories I always tell in my workshops is how it often takes just ONE teacher to encourage a student into a career, and especially to encourage a female into a STEM career. Dr. Estes was that person for me. I’ve shared about her to thousands of educators, administrators, parents, students, and STEM role models over the last six years. To share that meaningful story not only to her colleagues, and to her boss, but to her? It was an emotional time for sure.
During the course of the morning, I thanked Dr. Hargrove for teaching me how to be a leader. I had silently observed her for years. I thanked Dr. Estes for encouraging me to pursue a career in computer science and engineering. I thanked Mrs. Mangham for being a great 7th grade math teacher that set me on a positive trajectory that made my future in STEM possible. After all, that is such a critical time for students. Had she not been an incredible teacher, she could have turned me off of math and sent my life in a completely different academic and professional trajectory.
After the workshop, the four of us took a photo, pictured here, and one I will cherish forever, but not for the reasons I thought that day.
Over this past weekend, Mrs. Brigitte Mangham, a beautiful, soft-spoken, eternally sweet and kind woman, suddenly passed away. I don’t know the details, but she was young, in her fifties I believe. I saw the news in my Facebook feed, and couldn’t believe my eyes. Just three months earlier, to the day almost, I was hugging her neck and praising her for being an incredible educator and woman.
I am deeply saddened by her passing, but more for all the students who will not have the opportunity to fall in love with math because of her teaching. The world lost an incredible educator this week, and I can’t help but feel some responsibility to prepare future teachers to be as great as her. In her honor and memory, Mrs. Mangham, I hope I can make you proud.
And to you, my audience? Please, thank a teacher before it is too late.