Teach Tomorrow Oakland Honors Six Inspiring Educators

Teach Tomorrow in Oakland (TTO) recently celebrated the first six of its educators to complete five years working as teachers in Oakland public schools. The program, begun in 2008, is designed to recruit, support and retain the most outstanding teachers who reflect the diversity of Oakland's children. From left: Claudette Center, Claremont Middle; Dana Kearney, Montera Middle; Precious James, Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary; Jamie Knowles, Edna Brewer Middle; Kia Clark, Edna Brewer Middle; Cicely Day, Place at Prescott Elementary . Photo by Ken Epstein.

Teach Tomorrow in Oakland (TTO) recently celebrated the first six of its educators to complete five years working as teachers in Oakland public schools. The program, begun in 2008, is designed to recruit, support and retain the most outstanding teachers who reflect the diversity of Oakland's children. From left: Claudette Center, Claremont Middle; Dana Kearney, Montera Middle; Precious James, Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary; Jamie Knowles, Edna Brewer Middle; Kia Clark, Edna Brewer Middle; Cicely Day, Place at Prescott Elementary . Photo by Ken Epstein.

An initiative established in 2008 between former Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums’ office and Oakland Unified School District to recruit, support and retain the most outstanding teachers who reflect the diversity of Oakland’s children has reached another great milestone.

The initiative – Teach Tomorrow in Oakland (TTO) already has placed over 125 teachers, 86 of whom are still teaching within the district, and is set to place 25 news teachers in classrooms this fall.

On Saturday, May 31 at the First Unitarian Church in downtown Oakland, TTO celebrated its fifth anniversary by recognizing six instructors who have been there since inception of the program.

“TTO is excited to celebrate the first six Oakland residents who have completed five years teaching in the district,” TTO Manager Dr. Rachelle Rogers-Ard said.

The teachers who have completed their five-year minimum commitment to TTO and the district are:

Dana Adkins has been at Montera Middle School since the start, taught sixth grade math and science during her first four years. The Oakland native went to Howard Elementary, King Estates Middle School and Skyline High before attending the University of California at Davis.

“I’ve loved math my whole life and I just want everyone else to understand the love,” Adkins said.

Claudette Center describes herself as a consummate reader of all genres. She is an eighth grade history/social studies teacher at Claremont Middle School.

“I am passionate about equity for all, devoted to family and friends, lover of bicycling, skiing, scuba, gardning and sewing,” said the mother of four and grandmother of two.

The Oakland native attended Whittier, Frick, Fremont, the University of California at Berkeley, and Holy Names University. Prior to teaching, Center worked as a social worker for Alameda County’s CPS Crisis Intervention Unit as a 21-year veteran officer with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department and as a Real Estate Broker.

Kia Clark graduated from Loyola Marymount University (LMU) in 2006 with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies and with a minor in African-American Studies and Studio Arts. In 2008, she received her Masters in Education from LMU. She graduated from Holy Names high school in Oakland.

“I have a passion for teaching students the skills necessary to become global citizens,” she said.

Cicely Day graduated from Holy Names University with a Bachelor’s in Liberal Studies and Multiple Subject Credential.

“I was born and raised in Oakland and graduated from Castlemont High School,” she said.

Jamie Knowles graduated from Oakland Technical High in 1996. He went on to receive a Bachelor’s from Eugene Lang College in New York City and a Masters from Teachers College at Columbia University in 2009 before returning to his hometown to begin a teaching career with TTO.

“I am in my fifth year teaching Middle School ELA, and have served various roles at my school, including English Department Head, Family Head, IT Teacher Leader, Girls Basketball Coach, OEA Representative and CRT Trainer,” Knowles said.

Precious James began teaching in Oakland in 2009 at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary. Currently, she teaches a fifth grade class with a science, technology, engineering and science (STEM) concentration.

A graduate of Oakland Tech, James went on to earn her BA in Religious Studies and Math from the University of California at Riverside.

“I believe in teaching ‘by any means necessary’ and work to make sure all of my students’ academic, social and emotional needs are met and satisfied to their specific needs,” she said.

According to TTO’s program Manager Rogers-Ard, the organization’s goal has been about retention, and not singularly focused on recruitment.

“Our focus on recruiting local candidates who reflect the diversity of Oakland’s children and who will make a commitment to teach in Oakland for at least five years has been key in the district,” she explained.

“Providing reimbursements, monthly teacher-led professional development sessions, leadership sessions, and ‘Men in the Classroom’ sessions is the product of years of research around what it takes to retain teachers, but more specifically, teachers of color who are often isolated in classrooms and schools where they might be de-segregating faculty.”

For more information, visit TTO’s YouTube channel at http://bit.ly/1s03oGa or website at www.teachtomorrowinoakland.net.

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