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Transforming Education: Seventh in a series


TRANSFORMING EDUCATION TODAY
(Seventh in a Series of Interviews with Education Leaders)
Featuring Wendell Byrd


 

Note from Chuck Cascio: Given the difficult issues facing educators today in the USA, I have been running a series in which I contact established educators and request their insights, in their own words, on a number of vitally important education issues. Readers who would like to comment on the views expressed may email me at chuckwrites@yahoo.com. My Twitter handle is @ChuckCascio. Not all comments will be responded to by me and/or the individuals interviewed, but all will be read and, if appropriate, forwarded to others engaged in meaningful education reform. I am pleased to present as the seventh interview in this series the views of Wendell Byrd, former elementary school teacher, coach, and education entrepreneur who has dedicated his career to all aspects of education. Wendell's profile appears below:

 

Wendell Byrd, a renowned teacher for 31 years at Hutchison Elementary School in Herndon, VA, in 2003 founded the non-profit Readers Are Leaders, a program that trains high school athletes to tutor elementary school students in reading. The program's goal is to "promote growth for both our student-athletes and our young readers" and the statistics it has achieved in improving student reading skills are truly impressive. As head basketball coach at South Lakes High School in Reston, VA, Wendell amassed more than 450 victories, nine district championships, and six regional championships. Wendell continues to apply his coaching and teaching skills to his Readers Are Leaders program. For more information about Reader Are Leaders, and to make a donation, go to https://www.readersareleadersnonprofit.org.

Help spread the word: #TransformEducation

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>>>Recalling your own life as a student, going back as far as you would like, what do you remember as the most positive and most negative educational influences for you personally?

My most positive influences as a student would be two people, one in elementary school and one in high school: 

In 1964, schools in the City of Falls Church, VA, became integrated.  I attended Madison Elementary for fifth and sixth grades (one of five Black students in the school).  At the end of fifth grade I was named co-captain of the patrols. During those times each school would send their captain(s) to a patrol camp for developing young leaders. Mr. Chuck Koryda, our principal, provided all of the paperwork to share and to be signed by our parents (the camp was held in southern Maryland). After returning the paperwork a few weeks later, Mr. Koryda called me down to his office and said, “There is a problem with camp--I was told that they will not allow Black students to attend.”  He followed up with, “So I will find a camp were you and Larry (the other co-captain) can attend together.”  

We sat there a while talking about how important it is to see people for who they are, not by what they look like. I learned a lot from Chuck Kordya in my two years at Madison, encouraging me to be the best. And, believe it or not, Chuck Koryda became my principal at Hutchison Elementary in Herndon, VA, for a few years where I taught for 31 years!

Second of the positive influences would be Bernie Bronstein, a teacher in 1966 at George Mason High School, also in Falls Church, VA.  Bernie and I made a connection the first day we met.  He was the true definition of a mentor – a person that teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced younger person. I was lucky to have Bernie in my life to share so many life lessons with me.  Our relationship continued to grow throughout high school and college, and he remains a life-long friend.

When I became a teacher/coach I was determined to always be the best example and provide the needed support to all of the students that I came into contact with.

>>>Can you identify an educator (or educators) who provided you with uniquely positive insights into subject matter as well as teaching style? If so, please explain what made them unique.

I was very fortunate to work with many outstanding educators.  In 1975, I started my career in teaching at Hutchison Elementary in Herndon, VA.  It was a brand new school and the principal was unique in staffing—half the staff were women and half were men.  I was teamed with a veteran teacher, Kay Bean, and she became a mentor and friend.  In education, teaching styles and strategies come and go (the vicious circle).  Good educators like Kay, would take the good out of all of the styles and strategies and provide their classrooms with the best learning situation. 

>>>What inspired your career as a leader in education?

Being surrounded by strong educators who were in the profession with the main goal of supporting all students.

>>>Who should have the final say in what is taught in schools?

Final say has to come from elected leaders who should have a heartbeat of what is going on in their district.  That is why voting for representatives who meet your needs is essential.  Your School Board should be listening to administration, teachers, parents and, really, their community as a whole.  They are elected to make the best overall decisions for everyone. 

>>>Should high school and college students be encouraged to participate in internships to help enrich their learning? If so, what can be done to stimulate this participation?  

Yes, I agree that high school and college students should be encouraged to participate in internships to help open their eyes to a great profession. High schools should promote “Teaching Clubs” and provide opportunities for those students to intern under strong professionals who will endorse the educational field (and not just have them grade papers!).  

 Copyright: Chuck Cascio and Wendell Byrd, all rights reserved.