Four Million Facebook Views Won’t Change Excel Academy’s LaShonda Carter
It’s not often that someone posts something on Facebook that gets more than four million views, but that’s what happened to Excel Academy of Roseland Teacher of the Year, LaShonda Carter. The story about how she took care of a former student’s baby while the former student applied for a job appeared on the NBC Nightly News and elsewhere, all because a reporter saw her original Facebook post.
“I just thought I was going to get some of my Facebook friends to donate baby stuff like clothes and Pampers, Carter said. “I was going to pick the stuff up and that was it.”
But then a TV reporter in Chicago saw the post and reached out. Maybe it was that rare heartwarming, positive story in a sea of negative news on Chicago’s South Side. But here’s the thing: What Ms. Carter did for her former student is what Camelot teachers and staff do for their students routinely.
“This is what the teachers at Excel Academy do every day. It’s just normal for us. To see it get so much publicity was just amazing,” she said.
Carter, a special education teacher, says she was drawn to working with the kind of student Camelot serves.
“These are the students that regular public schools have written off. When they get here we give them a clean slate. We just give them that love and that structure and then they blossom,” Carter said.
There is work involved in overcoming the walls some students build around themselves.
“They are afraid to get hurt,” she said. “They get used to people coming in and out of their lives and they think we’re going to be those same people and that we’re going to do the same thing. So they often give us the cold shoulder at the start. Once they see our consistency it changes their lives.”
Carter says when she arrived at Camelot in September 2017 she was astonished at how the structure and the Camelot model work so effectively.
“Here at the Roseland campus we really are family. Over the summer we check on each other; we’ve gone on trips together; we have that bond. And it’s genuine,” Carter said. “Children need structure, just as adults need structure. For the students in our population, they need to know no cell phones, no earrings; boys must wear ties and belts. They need structure and normalcy and have to adapt to society.”
Carter’s classroom is a little different. It’s very inviting and warm. She keeps music playing in the background. It may be jazz; it may be classical.
“That opens the door for me to have intellectual conversations with them. I have a safe space in my room. I have a social-emotional learning corner with a rug, pillows and mindfulness activities.”
Most importantly, Ms. Carter responds that being a sudden celebrity with an appearance on national news and her four million views have not changed her at all.
“This is 4’11” me. This is who I am every day. I don’t have to try to be anybody else because you get tired when you try to be somebody who you’re not.”