BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — 23ABC’s Rosaura Simone spoke with one teacher about the importance of creating safe spaces within the school system for students that some may consider troubled.
They call her swaggy teacher and from the looks of it, that name appears to be spot on.
“I do get student's attention if I wear some Jordan’s today or something like that. You know they love that stuff, however it's also in my teaching I would say I have a swaggy style of teaching.”
Cattrice Toles with the Rafer Johnson Community Day School, says she takes her creativity like this fun TikTok video and uses it to keep her students engaged, but Toles’ work goes beyond the classroom.
‘No excuses just solutions’ is a mantra that Cattrice Toles and her students live by. As a restorative classroom specialist Toles specializes in helping her students find solutions to everyday issues students face.
“So, we don't give up when we’re faced with a problem,” said a student.
Toles doesn't stop there, within in her restorative practice the students also practice words of affirmation.
“I am strong, I am strong. I have perseverance.”
Toles said she’s seen the change in her students and this month was a special one because she got to teach her students about the history of her people.
“Teaching Black history is important because a lot of the accomplishments are not shared or addressed in our traditional textbooks. So, in addition to that, it gives us the opportunity to discuss not just Black history but cultural diversity overall.”
She said one way she allowed her students to express themselves this month was through art. She was proud that as a Black teacher she could guide her students.
“It’s important for staff of color to be there, and it's also shown we break down those racial barriers and cultural barriers within the school system and make it more likely to have those classroom discussions. It puts social injustice on its face in the classroom.”
She said when she was a kid, she only had one Black teacher, but it was hearing one of her students thank her in an eighth-grade graduation speech that reminded her the power of representation.
“No excuses, just solution. When she felt like she wanted to give up she would always hear me saying that and another thing she said was just seeing me, she said representation of a Black teacher, a female teacher, at that she said that always gave her drive.”