As a part of my series on educator diversity, I’m having conversations with educators of color that have expressed an interest in speaking with me about their experiences. The goal of these conversations is to provide voices to the plight of educators of color, and to show how we can not only get more young people of color into classrooms and into education in general, but that investments also need to be made on the back end to ensure we keep really good educators in the work.
For this interview, I have the opportunity to speak with Scott Steward, founder and CEO of Genius Lab, Inc, author, podcaster, and tech educator. As a tech educator, he has taught basic programming languages, how to build mobile applications, and how to startup prosperous and scalable businesses. He’s also taught business and entrepreneurship at the collegiate level at Roosevelt University, Chicago State University, DePaul University, Lewis University, and with the Chicago Public Schools for more than 15 years at the high school level.
Malcolm (MD): Hi Scott, thank you so much for making time to speak with me today! You’ve taught young people at various grade levels K-16. I appreciate you making time to speak with me today.
Scott Steward (SS): Thanks for having me Mal.
MD: I’ve been connecting with educators of color to talk more about why young people aren’t getting into education. You believe that the inability to consistently create an impact is a big reason why. Tell me more.
SS: Dealing with the bureaucracy of education can be challenging, sometimes it means you don’t have the autonomy to create impact in the classroom. It’s a barrier of entry into the space for some people. If I’m being bogged down with paperwork or sitting in PDs, which are important, it becomes harder to really create that impact.
MD: That’s interesting. So in your opinion, the inability to consistently create impact is driving young people away from education. Where do you see a lot of the potential educators heading instead for a career?
SS: I’m seeing a lot of young people go into the private sector for a bigger impact as opposed to working in the school system(s). Or the ed tech space where they can make an impact with a large number of people through technology.
MD: Yeah I’ve had quite a few young people I’ve worked with transition into education technology after teaching. So when talking about educators that are transitioning away from the classroom, what’s one of the biggest reasons for that in your opinion?
SS: Work/life balance is definitely one of the major reasons. Even though you have days off and some vacations, being a full time classroom teacher is daunting and to be effective it requires a lot of you. Some educators start looking at it as not worth it and they can do other things that provide more enjoyment and fulfillment, specifically in the public sector.
MD: It’s so tough to lose really good educators because of work/life balance. But I’m grateful that we’re seeing a more concerted effort towards more equitable hours at work and a decreased workload for teachers. As a young person, you had quite a few educators of color, how did that affect your sense of culture and pride?
SS: I had four, which shouldn’t be high in K-12 but I guess it is. Then I went to an HBCU where all of my instructors were Black. I came up in an era where being educated was professional and had an element of class to it. Seeing other Black teachers in a sea of white teachers, I saw it as important.
SS: Early on I didn’t have a lot of respect for teachers because some of the teachers seemed miserable, but the Black teachers did it with a sense of class and dignity. That became important to me to do work that you take pride in and can be proud of and it affected me positively.
MD: Your story speaks to the importance of teachers of color and how they make a big impact on young people. It’s a big reason why I’m glad to have someone like you in this work that continues to invest in young people and show them the importance of education. Thank you again for taking time to chat with me and to speak your mind on education and how we can improve it.
You can connect with Scott Steward through Instagram, or Facebook and also make sure to check out Genius Lab today! You can also connect with me via my podcast The 3rd Lap Podcast and learn more about The Center for Black Educator Development here.