Cleveland's Freshest Educators (Part 7): Rita Mikita

“It would be really selfish of me to keep all this awesome science stuff to myself.”

This week’s feature: Rita Mikita
Physics Teacher, MC2 Stem High School

We’ve interviewed some of the freshest educators we know. They operate from a place love, care, discipline and personal sacrifice on behalf of Cleveland's precious students. Let these stories honor ALL Cleveland teacher who do this important work every day!

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at    Fresh Lab Cleveland   .

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at Fresh Lab Cleveland.

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at    Fresh Lab Cleveland   .

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at Fresh Lab Cleveland.

What got you interested in becoming a teacher?

It would be really selfish of me to keep all this awesome science stuff to myself.

What might we catch you doing when you aren’t in the classroom?

I experiment not just in the classroom, but in the kitchen! I love getting creative with food and testing out new ideas. I spend a lot of time with my husband and 1-year old son, going on adventures in our beautiful community of Gordon Square with our dogs. I still go to a punk rock show once in a while, too.

Why does high quality education in Cleveland matter?

It matters everywhere. But it especially matters in places like Cleveland where education truly opens doors for kids. Part of being an educator is ensuring students have the tools they need to become adults. For many this means college, so we do everything we can to prepare them. But college isn't for everyone, and for those students its our duty to support their passions, be they trades or arts or anything they can see themselves doing after graduation. I WISH I had the teachers and the opportunities my students have when I was in high school!

What is the most challenging thing about your work?

Most of my students walk in with the burden of systemic disadvantages they have no control over. It's a huge challenge sometimes to chip away at these burdens and let them realize that the classroom is THEIR space to take control of THEIR brains. I'll admit, it takes a lot of persistence to work through it. I have students every day who are tired, distracted, hungry- but when they start realizing their autonomy and agency, the challenge is all worth it.

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at    Fresh Lab Cleveland   .

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at Fresh Lab Cleveland.

Tell us about a time that you knew that you made a difference in a young person’s life.

When I'm feeling down or overwhelmed, I always think of the students I've made lasting relationships with. Students who are now young adults and still take time out of their breaks home from college or work to stop by and visit my class, or who email me at 11PM on a Sunday night to proofread their essays. I have a 9th grade teacher who I am still friends with to this day; she made an impression on me and for the last 15 years I've always known I have her trust and support. It's really special to think that I am that person for some, and that the bonds we form are more than one school year long.

 Tell us about a time your life was changed/impacted by a student or because of a student.

My first year teaching in Cleveland was eye-opening. Our students collaborated with Refresh Collective and wrote, recorded, and performed their own songs as part of a greater Capstone project, songs that exposed some of their raw feelings and experiences with issues that affected them on a daily basis. The creative outlet the project provided was a platform for truth, sometimes painful reality. The baggage that some of our students have is more than a teenager should ever have to carry. The project hit me really hard, and I dropped many of the by-the-book teaching strategies I was taught and decided to try to lead with compassion, patience, and understanding above all. I might wear my heart on my sleeve now sometimes, but I think I am a better teacher for it.

What would be your message to your peers?

Fail lots! Then get back up and try again, there is no better way to learn!

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at    Fresh Lab Cleveland   .

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at Fresh Lab Cleveland.

Cleveland's Freshest Educators (Part 6): WENJING WANG

“Life is short, cherish and enjoy.”

This week’s feature: Wenjing Wang
Chinese Teacher, MC2 Stem High School

We’ve interviewed some of the freshest educators we know. They operate from a place love, care, discipline and personal sacrifice on behalf of Cleveland's precious students. Let these stories honor ALL Cleveland teacher who do this important work every day!

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at    Fresh Lab Cleveland   .

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at Fresh Lab Cleveland.

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at    Fresh Lab Cleveland   .

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at Fresh Lab Cleveland.

What got you interested in becoming a teacher?

 Being with the young kids all the time

What might we catch you doing when you aren’t in the classroom?

Traveling, hanging out with the fam, doing my side business

Why does high quality education in Cleveland matter?

Kids from the low background need the fair opportunities to succeed too .

What is the most challenging thing about your work?

 Lack of the support from parents

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at    Fresh Lab Cleveland   .

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at Fresh Lab Cleveland.

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at    Fresh Lab Cleveland   .

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at Fresh Lab Cleveland.

Tell us about a time that you knew that you made a difference in a young person’s life.

 A couple kids I taught years ago are still taking Chinese as their foreign language.

Tell us about a time your life was changed/impacted by a student or because of a student.

The first time in my life I realized that life is not predictable was when one kid was in my classroom Friday and he never woke up Saturday morning. Life is short, cherish and enjoy.

8. What would be your message to your peers?

Love our job. Teach the kids and learn from them.

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at    Fresh Lab Cleveland   .

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at Fresh Lab Cleveland.

Cleveland's freshest educators (part 5): Angela Powell

“I wanted to be the person my students knew was there for them and believed in them.”

This week’s feature: Angela Powell, MEd
Computer Science/Engineering Teacher, MC2 Stem High School

We’ve interviewed some of the freshest educators we know. They operate from a place love, care, discipline and personal sacrifice on behalf of Cleveland's precious students. Let these stories honor ALL Cleveland teacher who do this important work every day!

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at    Fresh Lab Cleveland   .

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at Fresh Lab Cleveland.

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at    Fresh Lab Cleveland   .

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at Fresh Lab Cleveland.

What got you interested in becoming a teacher/principal?  

Teaching is my second career, I actually went back to school to get a License/Masters in education. I was working in retail management and didn't feel like I was making a difference. I wanted to do more. I always loved school and knew the promise that Cleveland students had and wanted to be a role model for them as someone that lived and went to school in Cleveland and stayed here to give back. When I was in school I had teachers that did not believe in me and I still remember how that felt. I never wanted any student to feel like that and wanted to be the person my students knew was there for them and believed in them.

 What might we catch you doing when you aren’t in the classroom? 

Going to the movies with my son! Spending time with my family, laying on the couch watching Law and Order. LOL

Why does high quality education in Cleveland matter?  

Cleveland kids matter! They deserve the same quality education just like other students in the greater Cleveland area. The truth is that they are just as smart and capable as any other student in the state and many of them go on to do BIG things after graduation that are life-changing for themselves and the community.

What is the most challenging thing about your work?

Reaching every student and keeping every student engaged.

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at    Fresh Lab Cleveland   .

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at Fresh Lab Cleveland.

Tell us about a time that you knew that you made a difference in a young person’s life.

I'm not sure there's one moment that sticks out. What keeps me going is the different relationships I have with the kids. They make me laugh even when I want to yell. They make me smile even when I feel like crying. Every day brings something new. I don't think I’ve ever had a day where I haven't at least smile once while I'm at work.

Tell us about a time your life was changed/impacted by a student or because of a student.

I knew that all it took was a little love and time when one of my students finally had a breakthrough with me. He was finally open to trusting me and performing for me. When I met this student, he was in kindergarten. He was nonverbal and wore a monkey backpack with a tail that his classroom teacher had to hold because he was a runner. I can remember having to chase him around the room and block the doors so he wouldn't get out my class. Patience is what I needed to get to him! Over the next 3 years I found out his interests and was patient with him. By the time he was in 4th grade he was reading books to me! That experience with him impacted me. It gave me hope and made me proud to be a teacher.

What would be your message to your peers?

When you feel like giving up... Just keep swimming!!!

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at    Fresh Lab Cleveland   .

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at Fresh Lab Cleveland.

Cleveland’s Freshest Educators (part 4): Forest Clayton

“We have to give our kids a high quality education in order for us to create a solid, successful future for our city.”

This week’s feature: Forest Clayton
9th Grade Assistant Principal, MC2 STEM High School, CSU Campus

We’ve interviewed some of the freshest educators we know. They operate from a place love, care, discipline and personal sacrifice on behalf of Cleveland's precious students. Let these stories honor ALL Cleveland teacher who do this important work every day!

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at    Fresh Lab Cleveland   .

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at Fresh Lab Cleveland.

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at    Fresh Lab Cleveland   .

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at Fresh Lab Cleveland.

What got you interested in becoming a teacher/principal?

 I have always had a passion for education and had a lot of teachers that made an impact in my life. I always have aspired to be like them since I saw how important a teacher’s influence and support could be on a young person.

What might we catch you doing when you aren’t in the classroom?

Anything to do with the outdoors or staying active, where I love to run, bike, kayak, and hike.

Why does high quality education in Cleveland matter?

Cleveland has been on the rebound and in order to keep it that way, we have to give our kids a high quality education in order for us to create a solid, successful future for our city.

 What is the most challenging thing about your work?

 Seeing the inequities that still exist in the different neighborhoods around the city and knowing that some of my students are not getting the access to important resources that other students do just based off of the location in which they live.

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at    Fresh Lab Cleveland   .

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at Fresh Lab Cleveland.

Tell us about a time that you knew that you made a difference in a young person’s life.

It speaks volumes when I have past students who come to see me or keep in contact after they have graduated and they say something along the lines of, “You kept pushing us and were a difficult teacher, but we now see why.” My goal as an educator is to provide my students skills that will help them be able be prepared and manage life outside of high school. So, when I hear things like that, I know I was successful.

Tell us about a time your life was changed/impacted by a student or because of a student.

My students are an important part of my life and the reason I do this job. There are way too many times that a student has impacted my life and it’s really because of my students that I have an immense passion for fighting against the injustices that many of them face on a daily.

What would be your message to your peers?

 Don’t be worried about the kids of today. They are bright, energetic, and passionate. If we as a community show them that we believe in them, give them love and support, and help them discover their potential, we will be okay.

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at    Fresh Lab Cleveland   .

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at Fresh Lab Cleveland.

Cleveland’s Freshest Educators (part 3): Sharae Smith

“As a Mom, I am there ready to be a comfort and a resource for any and all students who just need that extra attention. “

This week’s feature: Sharae Smith
Principal Secretary, MC2 Stem High School

We’ve interviewed some of the freshest educators we know. They operate from a place love, care, discipline and personal sacrifice on behalf of Cleveland's precious students. Let these stories honor ALL Cleveland teacher who do this important work every day!

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at    Fresh Lab Cleveland   .

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at Fresh Lab Cleveland.

What got you interested in becoming a school secretary?

Well, it was never my intention to become a school secretary, even though my grandmother (now deceased) and mother are both retired CMSD secretaries. Growing up, I always volunteered at my mother's previous schools and knew that I wanted to work with and around children. I was always personable and was able to connect with the community very well. Eventually, I ended up becoming a secretary which allows me to focus more on my own children and still work with other students.

What might we catch you doing when you aren’t in the classroom?

You can always find me enjoying time with family and friends rather its board games, nature walks, movie times, fishing, road trips or just relaxing.

Why does high quality education in Cleveland matter?

 High quality education in Cleveland matters because it provides a gateway for students to be successful in life. High quality education can lead to progress in higher test scores, likelihood of students meeting graduation requirements and higher chances of receiving scholarships. 

What is the most challenging thing about your work?

The most challenging thing about work is the lack of attention and/or food children receive from home. It's heart breaking when children come to school just to receive some type of nutrition or attention because they’re lacking it at home. As a Mom, I am there ready to be a comfort and a resource for any and all students who just need that extra attention.

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at    Fresh Lab Cleveland   .

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at Fresh Lab Cleveland.

Tell us about a time that you knew that you made a difference in a young person’s life.

There was this senior who called me "Ma" ever since his 9th grade year who started to develop truancy because of his lack of attendance in school. One of his classmates called me and informed that this student was not attending school because he was working full time hours when he should have been in school. Apparently, this young man felt that working to make money was more important than receiving his high school diploma. Granted this young man was trying to be a blessing to his family and assist with providing for their household, I knew having his high school diploma will be an even bigger blessing to him and his family seeing he would have been the first young male in his family to receive his high school diploma. I made a few calls to locate his place of his employment, contacted our counselor and made sure this young man work schedule was changed and his mind back on track to be the first male to graduate. This young man complied and received his high school diploma on his scheduled graduation date. 

Tell us about a time your life was changed/impacted by a student or because of a student.

My life changed when I realized how much of an inspiration I am to our students. I never knew how much of an impact I could be to a student. Each individual I have come in contact with has shown me something different. I take in some of our students’ different personalities, attitudes, creativeness, and swag which helps me to raise my own children. Without my students, I would not be able to keep up with the latest trend. LOL

What would be your message to your peers?

This world is yours. Take advantage of what you have and own it! The sky has no limits for you!!

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at    Fresh Lab Cleveland   .

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at Fresh Lab Cleveland.

Cleveland’s Freshest Educators (part 2): Clifford Powell

‘In the words of Peter Parker’s uncle “With great power comes great responsibility.”’

This week’s feature: Clifford Powell
Assistant Principal, MC2 STEM High School, CSU Campus

We’ve interviewed some of the freshest educators we know. They operate from a place love, care, discipline and personal sacrifice on behalf of Cleveland's precious students. Let these stories honor ALL Cleveland teacher who do this important work every day!

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at    Fresh Lab Cleveland   .

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at Fresh Lab Cleveland.

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at    Fresh Lab Cleveland   .

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at Fresh Lab Cleveland.

 What got you interested in becoming a teacher/principal? 

I had a mentor that was a principal, and after watching him I felt like I could really be a leader that helped students reach their potential and eventually become leaders in their communities.

What might we catch you doing when you aren’t in the classroom?

These days I really enjoy spending time and playing with my kids.

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at    Fresh Lab Cleveland   .

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at Fresh Lab Cleveland.

 Why does high quality education in Cleveland matter?  

I am biased because I have lived in Cleveland my entire life.  I believe that there is a lot of talent and untapped potential in the young people in this city.  These kids deserve a quality education because they give so much to the city as far as talent, passion, and intelligence.  In my role at CMSD, I am blessed to witness this every day.  The city needs to give back in the form of providing a quality education for its students. 

What is the most challenging thing about your work?  

The most challenging thing about work is that you have a direct impact on the lives of young people.  If you don’t give your all at work, you can alter the lives of your students.  So many of us can look back at our school days and speak to moments that we’re really motivational (whether the experience was good or bad) or moments that were really discouraging.  You can scar a person for life or plant a seed that helps them grow.  In the words of Peter Parker’s uncle “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at    Fresh Lab Cleveland   .

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at Fresh Lab Cleveland.

Each year Dee Jay Doc and more recently, Lee Harrill, guide all 9th graders at MC2 Stem High School in the process of producing their own songs for change.

The 2019 Fall/Winter line of hand-printed apparel from Fresh Lab Cleveland is dedicated to the educators of Cleveland students.

 

Cleveland’s Freshest Educators (part 1): Feowyn MacKinnon

“All of our students have a unique story
and they deserve the time to tell it
and I want to hear it. . .“

This week’s feature: Feowyn MacKinnon
Head of School- MC2 STEM High School

We’ve interviewed some of the freshest educators we know. They operate from a place love, care, discipline and personal sacrifice on behalf of Cleveland's precious students. Let these stories honor ALL Cleveland teacher who do this important work every day!

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at    Fresh Lab Cleveland   .

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at Fresh Lab Cleveland.

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at    Fresh Lab Cleveland   .

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at Fresh Lab Cleveland.

What got you interested in becoming a teacher/principal? 

I attended CMSD schools. I had great teachers and was challenged every day to do great things. Cleveland is my home and I thought that becoming an educator here would be the best way to give back!

What might we catch you doing when you aren’t in the classroom? What do you enjoy doing for fun?

 School IS what I do for fun! When I’m not in school, I like watching movies and tv, writing stories, and finding ways to relax.

Why does high quality education in Cleveland matter?

 “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

-Nelson Mandela

 What is the most challenging thing about your work?

 I can’t be everywhere for everyone all the time. All of our students have a unique story and they deserve the time to tell it and I want to hear it, unfortunately with so many students who deserve so much, I find it hard when I can’t be around.

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at    Fresh Lab Cleveland   .

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at Fresh Lab Cleveland.

 Tell us about something that really keeps you going when you are feeling exhausted.

 Every year I have a countdown to graduation, and around March and April, it gets exhausting. However, when May comes around and I start checking names off my list, and we get the delivery of caps and gowns and yearbooks, and we practice in the auditorium without an audience, and there is energy and excitement and tears, I know I’m doing the right thing.

 Tell us about a time your life was changed/impacted by a student or because of a student.

 I could tell you 1000 stories of how my life has changed by my students. Robert Bruce graduates in the class of 2018. When he was a freshman the police brought him to school in hand cuffs. He had done nothing wrong, but the officers at the rapid station were collecting all of the students’ names and he wouldn’t provide his. He kept saying, “I’m under 18, my dad told me I shouldn’t ever talk to police without him present.” He tried to give them dad’s phone number, but they kept pushing to get his name. Finally, he directed the police to the school and, as embarrassed as he was, he let the cops bring him inside in cuffs. The officers tried to ask me for private information about Robert, and he just kept saying, “please call my dad Ms. MacK, he told me not to talk to police without him around.” That moment had an impact because Robert was only 14 at the time, I saw the power dynamic between the police and a student and I respected that Robert knew his rights and was willing to be threatened, embarrassed, and accused to protect his own rights, and I knew at that moment that I had a responsibility to teach and protect the rights of my students. I have experiences like that all the time that remind me that there is a real world outside of the school walls and I have to present information to our kids that they find meaningful enough to keep with them when I’m not around to be their advocate.

What would be your message to your peers?

 Be a good person. Ask good questions. Make good memories.

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at    Fresh Lab Cleveland   .

Photo by Bivens Photography. Shirt printed at Fresh Lab Cleveland.

Each year Dee Jay Doc and more recently, Lee Harrill, guide all 9th graders at MC2 Stem High School in the process of producing their own songs for change.

The 2019 Fall/Winter line of hand-printed apparel from Fresh Lab Cleveland is dedicated to the educators of Cleveland students.

Air's Story of Confidence

Through neighborhood summer camps, in-school and after-school programs we mentor the next generation with artistic skills, critical thinking, leadership training, and character development. Here's Air's story of her confidence growing:

Charles teaching Arianna the ins and outs of screen printing.

Charles teaching Arianna the ins and outs of screen printing.

Printing her first posters.

Printing her first posters.

Thank you for donating to help me and other students like me to grow creativity, confidence and character.