It hadn’t happened since 1970. When James Ford was named NC Teacher of the Year last April, he was the first Charlotte-Mecklenburg teacher to receive that recognition in over 40 years.
Since last April, he’s been going non-stop, representing public education and its 95,000-plus teachers all around the state. Now add to his ever-growing list of appearances the upcoming A Night for Children’s Rights on February 25th. He’ll be the featured speaker at the fifth annual fundraiser hosted by the Council and we couldn’t be more excited.
The idea to invite him came from CFCR board member Martha Schmitt, who serves on the event committee. “I heard James speak at my church and I don’t believe I have ever heard anyone speak so passionately about issues around children who are living in poverty,” she shared; “not just poverty of economics, but poverty of experience, poverty of opportunity and it takes away children’s hope, takes away a path for a hope-filled future.”
That’s a reaction you hear a lot about Ford’s gifts as a speaker and a teacher. Over the past year, traveling across the state meeting with businesses, politicians, teachers and community leaders, he has gained a reputation as a passionate advocate for public education, teaching and, of course, the students themselves. Along the way, he has received numerous other awards including the 2014 Charlottean of the Year by Charlotte Magazine and Teacher of the Year by the National Alliance of Black School Educators.
What’s this year has been like for the formerly unknown world history teacher? “It’s an amazing platform to be given and an incredible opportunity” he states. But as he speaks it is clear that this opportunity isn’t about him but is laser focused on what he deems most important –the chance to change lives.
“Every person has a story,” he says, “but it takes time to peel back the pages and really get to the heart of that story.” He talks about the complexities and the challenges students, especially at-risk students, bring with them. Those challenges, according to Ford, can’t be left at the door or ignored in the classroom. And it is the chance to have an effect on those larger, societal issues that has been particularly rewarding for him this past year. As he looks to the future, he’s uncertain on what exactly he’ll do next, but knows that he wants to bring the momentum of this year forward to have a larger impact on the youth of our community.
The White House will announce the national teacher of the year award in April. We are crossing our fingers for the local teacher from Garringer High School. He’s the real deal.
In the meantime, when he takes the stage on February 25th, Ford will share his thoughts and insights on the evening’s theme “Imagine the Possibilities.” “James impressed upon me how it is all our jobs to provide children with hope,” adds Martha Schmitt. “Hope is what leads us down a path of possibilities. James is inspirational in his commitment to children. He inspired me and I know he will inspire our guests at ANFCR”