Fresh out of college, Shakari Stroud landed a position coveted by many new graduates: She joined Teach for America, a nonprofit organization that places promising young teachers in K-12 schools in low-income communities to help improve the learning environment for children. As a middle school math teacher, she laughs, she cries, she deals with lost backpacks—and she is beginning to see the bigger picture on how to improve education in America.
Name: Shakari Stroud
Degree: BA, ’17, anthropology
Occupation: Middle school math teacher by way of Teach for America
How did you land a job with Teach for America?
I applied to Teach for America at the third deadline and got accepted in December right before I would leave to study in Brazil under professor (Paul) Garber in the Department of Anthropology. After that I studied in Ghana for my last semester, and shortly after my return to the states I moved to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where I currently teach middle school math.
What’s a typical workday for you?
“Hey class! Alright, take out your homework.” And it begins… “Ms. Stroud, I left my bookbag on the bus.” “I left my homework in my locker. Can I do it real fast?” “See, what had happened was…” As a middle school math teacher, you have to stay on your toes and be ready to hear the craziest things while either holding back laughter or tears. My day goes from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. School dismisses at 3:55 p.m., but I stay behind to tutor some of my students.What’s the most important part of your work?
Building relationships with my students. That is the one relationship that must happen organically because those relationships are how you learn the most about yourself and your students. You trust each other and are rooting for each other to thrive. Teaching is more than getting your students to pass tests. It's a matter of addressing the needs of the whole child, such as mental, social, and cultural aspects that present themselves as hindrances to their academic success. The students I teach sometimes do not possess the proper resources, such as a parent, to guide critical social learning. As the teacher I take on that responsibility. Our inner city youth have problems that many people don’t want to deal with.
What about college and your major prepared you?
My liberal arts education taught me everything. I learned how to explore without getting overwhelmed. And anthropology is everywhere! Examining the disciplines in anthropology helped me to better understand the world I’m working in—specifically in education when I look back at cultural and education anthropology. The intersection of education and anthropology speaks to both micro- and macro-level challenges we are facing in the current tumultuous state of education. Through my major I have learned how to develop my communication skills as I work with others on projects. Being a teacher, communication is a must. It acts as a bridge to bring about cross-curriculum teaching and learning as well as working with colleagues to better access our students’ learning.