Corey Carter, more affectionately known by his students as Mr. Carter, didn’t always envision himself as a teacher. Sitting in his public school classroom growing up, he looked at a predominantly White teaching staff and wondered to himself, “Where are all the teachers and role models that look like me? Who’s going to be my champion?”
Years later, he is now his own answer to that question.
Carter always envisioned himself working in a lab, doing research, asking questions, and testing hypotheses as a PhD researcher. During his spare time, he was active in working with young people and tutoring others, hoping to spread his love of science. Whenever he brings up the word ‘science’ you can hear the excitement in his voice.
His ultimate goal is for his students to love science as much as he does. He wants his students to rush home to their parents and caretakers to talk about what they did in science class that day. He believes that being a teacher was a profession that chose him because his parents encouraged him to read, to ask more questions, and always look for answers, which is what he now hopes to instill in his students in the classroom.
As the Baltimore County Teacher of the Year, Carter is noted for his enthusiasm, his authenticity, and his work to be a champion for students inside and outside of the classroom. He believes that in order to become an effective educator, one has to fail numerous times. The best way to be effective and grow through failure is through constant reflection.
Carter strives to teach the whole child. Bringing in the lessons that his parents taught him, he is transparent with students about where they are in terms of content knowledge, but places a strong emphasis on ensuring that students know where they can go and how vast their potential is.
Each year, he starts his classes off by establishing a class culture. “If a student doesn’t feel safe that will trump any content you’re trying to teach,” he said. When you put students at the center of class culture, they take ownership of their action and their performance. “What students need is less policing and more support. There has to be an ongoing system of checks and balances of the culture,” a sentiment that he reiterates to emphasize how critical it is to have teachers that nurture and love their students, not just reprimand without taking the time to get to the root of the problem.
Mr. Carter builds a positive classroom culture by giving shout-outs to students and celebrating students who are doing well in class through verbal affirmations. “By recognizing leaders with classroom leadership roles, it gives students an outlet, and also their peers start following their example,” he said.
He inspires students to be leaders outside of the classroom as well. He, along with a few other teachers at his school, implemented a My Brother’s Keeper Mentoring Initiative to help young men of color develop college-ready skills and to provide support for them to be successful in school and in life. The pillars of the program are to use resources and partnership to become model males who will contribute to society through leadership, brotherhood, constructive communication and respect for self and others. They cover topics in their bi-weekly meetings ranging from financial literacy to goal setting to academic excellence to anger management.
Mr. Carter strives to build up the profession of teaching. “As teachers, we always do what needs to get done, but we don’t always reach out for help, even if we do need it,” he said. “One of the most important ways to support educators is by simply asking them what they need to be successful.”
He also believes that as a male educator of color, there needs to be more opportunities for networking and brotherhood amongst other male educators of color. As he looks towards his future in education, he wants to outreach and support those students who are thinking about going into education, and show them how valuable it is for them to shape the next generation of future leaders.
Mr. Carter is a mentor and role model to many, but is a prime example of how strong educators make sure their students are safe, engaged, and supported to be successful in school and in life.
David Johns is the executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans. Cierra Kaler-Jones is a graduate student at George Washington University and an intern with the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans.