Dion Beary: 2008 NC Teaching Fellow
Posted January 25, 2019 5:00 a.m. EST
Updated January 25, 2019 5:46 a.m. EST
This interview was conducted by email as part of a series on teacher diversity in North Carolina.
- Read the full series: NC's teacher diversity gap
- Read more interviews with other North Carolina Teaching Fellows
- WRAL News conducted a longer interview with Dion Beary by phone. Read the story: Former NC Teaching Fellow says low wages, heavy workload made him leave teaching
What years were you a Teaching Fellow, and what college did you attend?
I attended Queens University of Charlotte as a founding member of their Teaching Fellows program from 2008 to 2012.
Why did you apply to be a Teaching Fellow, and how did the program affect your life?
I applied in my senior year of high school. I didn't really have any way to pay for college, so I felt some pressure to get a scholarship. I always loved my English teachers, and I was good at writing, so I figured being an English teacher myself would be a great career goal.
The program changed my life because it got me to Charlotte, a city I now love, and it got me my degree. Although I'm not exactly using my degree now, I can't imagine how I would've been able to attend a private college like Queens University if not for the Teaching Fellows program.
What have you done since college, and what are you doing now?
After college I taught for four years in the CMS system. On a technicality, Teaching Fellows is only counting three of the years, but it's hard to keep up with how to contact the program and dispute things since it has been canceled and revived so many times. Teaching in Charlotte was extremely difficult. I love kids and I love teaching, but the constant shifts in administration, direction, low pay, and lack of work life balance drove me out of the profession.
I moved into marketing as a copywriter, and now three years later, I'm an account executive at a sports marketing firm and a writer for Charlotte Agenda.
Why have you stayed in (or left) teaching?
North Carolina doesn't seem to value teachers, and I didn't see any indication that pay, benefits, workload, or work life balance would change any time soon. Some might argue that if I loved the kids enough, I would be able to sacrifice for the sake of staying in the profession, but I think that's just an attempt to shame former teachers for having the courage to move on to careers where they can make more money, experience less stress, and receive more respect.
A lot of the public, and in some ways the school system itself, seems to have this attitude toward teachers like "Just take this low salary and heavy workload, and if you can't do that, then you're a bad person for abandoning kids." The best thing for kids, however, is for school systems to invest in retaining a talented workforce. As a former teacher, I do not feel as if I abandoned my students; I feel as if CMS abandoned them.
What advice do you have for colleges hoping to recruit more people of color and men to study teaching?
Colleges will need to start seeing men and people of color as talented individuals who are in high demand. Colleges need to treat men and people of color as if the colleges are in competition for some extremely valuable members of their workforce.
Rather, most education programs I've seen tend to treat men of color as missing father figures within underperforming schools (my very first principal literally told me she hoped I would be a father figure for a certain group of emergent learners who were also black). They view black males as artifacts they can drop into failing schools, and we'll instantly turn things around as if all black people automatically relate to each other. Then, when we don't succeed, they treat us as failures despite the fact we were never given the resources to be successful. And then we're not given the option to teach AP level classes at the same instances of our older white colleagues, so we get burnt out after years of failure and quit.
The weight of solving academic performance in deeply segregated schools should not be placed on the shoulders of black males in their early 20s.
What advice do you have for schools hoping to retain people of color and men as teachers?
Work together with the school system to develop incentive programs for men and people of color coming out of college into the workforce. Also, school systems will need to recruit more African American administration officials who can help educate white administrations on what is and isn't appropriate when placing minorities in the classroom.