At Franklin Park Elementary School, teachers celebrate Black history with books

Every day, teachers and staff at Franklin Park Elementary School in Fort Myers make sure their students know who they are.

And during Black History Month, teachers step it up.

“We just want our students to know that you are more than welcome to soar on the wings of our ancestors,” said Tamara Joy Hunter, a district teacher leader at the school, which has a majority Black student population.

The teachers teach students Black History through art, books, poetry and much more. More importantly, they give students a glimpse of who they could be.

“You know we’re just not athletes, and entertainers, and musicians but Black people have a rich culture of history,” said Dr. Mia German, an assistant principal of Franklin Park Elementary School. “We’re educators. We are lawyers, scientists, engineers, astronauts and it’s very important that our children know about those people.”

The annual Black History read-in helps with that effort.

Hunter, a one-time Lee County Teacher of the Year, rallies role models to read books about Black History and culture.

“It gets them excited about the richness of our culture,” said Hunter, who is Black.

This year the read-in is virtual because of the pandemic, but that does not lessen their impact.

Community leaders like Fort Myers Fire Chief Tracy McMillion, Fort Myers Councilwoman Teresa Watkins Brown and Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson have posted videos for the students to watch in their classrooms. Almost 60 videos have been submitted. They will be played for students during the month of February and beyond.

“Giving children the opportunity to be exposed to all the richness of our culture gives students that aha moment that I can be great,” Hunter said.

That inspiration does not just come from the community and it does not just happen during Black History Month. Teachers like Mrs. Hunter serves as a positive example where the majority of students look like her.

“We have students come in every day trying to emulate who we are so they will wear their hair like us,” Hunter said. “They will dress like us and they will perform like us. I hold them accountable for doing their best at all times.”

During class, kids recite affirmations, declaring “I am strong! I am smart! I am a leader!”

The students are proud of who they are and proud of who paved the way for them to dream big.

 

Reporter:Breana Ross
Writer:Melissa Montoya
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