Teaching as an act of service

Published 8:46 pm Monday, July 14, 2014

Judging by how many Facebook likes our story last week received, Antonio Smith Jr. has a lot of family and friends in Suffolk.

The 2009 graduate of Lakeland High School, as the story reported, has made the decision to join Teach For America.

This means Smith, teaching the subject of math to high school students, will join the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school division, where he’ll work to extend the possibilities of education to low-income students.

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Teach For America states that evidence shows America’s 16 million children living in poverty can achieve at the highest levels, if only given the opportunity.

Equal access to education is a cornerstone of democracy, and ensuring that it does in fact exist is the surest way of fighting poverty.

It’s a fact of life that many communities don’t have the money to fund school systems at the level required to provide equality of education. Sadly, those communities are pre-loaded for generations of poverty.

Members of the Teach For America corps commit to two years in high-need urban or rural public schools, and, often fresh out of college and raring to go, that’s a lot of time to inspire their students and offer new ideas and hope to their more-entrenched and possibly jaded teacher colleagues.

To rising seniors especially, but others as well, Smith has demonstrated that young people can set aside their dream job — though who’s to say teaching isn’t his dream job? — to help solve problems in society.

With large class sizes and likely many students who are resistant to learning because they’ve always been told they’ll never be in a position to make use of it anyway, Smith is bound to be challenged.

He spoke to the Suffolk News-Herald about wanting to first help his students set goals, then set them on the right path to achieving them.

On its website, Teach For America talks about helping leaders like Smith “increase their impact and deepen their understanding of what it takes to provide an excellent education for our most underserved kids.”

Going into the experience, one Suffolk man embarking on his teaching career certainly seemed to be standing on fertile ground.

During the coming years, thousands of students are set to benefit from whatever Smith learns.