The Power of a Teacher
Story by V. Michelle Bernard
Tears streamed down Manny Scott’s face as talked to some 5,000 Seventh-day Adventist educators at the North American Division 2018 Teachers’ Convention in Chicago.
Scott, one of the students whose stories were told in part in the 2007 movie, Freedom Writers, grew up with his father in jail and a cocaine addicted stepfather. He stole his first car at age 11, smoked marijuana and drank. He fell so far behind in school, had such poor English grammar skills, that he was classified as an English as a Second Language student. “And we didn’t speak any other language at home,” he said.
Through the years, several people touched his life, including a cafeteria worker, and a man on a bench who introduced him to Christ. But Erin Gruwell, the English teacher portrayed in the movie, really reached him. After struggling to inspire her inner city students to learn the classics, she embraced their culture and used music and film that her students connected with. Although she personally disdained rap music, she used art forms the students already embraced to teach English principals, like using rapper Snoop Dogg’s lyrics to explain iambic pentameter to her students.
Those students, including Scott, graduated high school, many graduating from college and beyond.
Drawing on that experience, Scott, now a successful motivational speaker and founder of Ink International, an education consulting firm, encouraged the teachers to also make a difference in their students’ lives, like Gruwell made in his. “Sometimes you have to believe in someone else’s belief in you before yours sets in,” said Scott, who further encouraged the teachers that even on their worst days, they can be someone else’s hope.
“You can never be paid enough for what you do. … [But] if you continue living and serving the Savior, it shall not be in vain,” he said.
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