Sometimes the most impressive – and the most impactful – things occur out of happenstance. That’s how second-grade teacher Jazzi Goode ’11 found herself dressing up as different personalities from African American history to celebrate Black History Month with her class in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Goode, who graduated from the College with a degree in elementary education, explains: “One morning in my third year of teaching, I woke up late and threw on some clothes, and while heading out the door, I realized that I sort of looked like Rosa Parks. So, I ran with it. I told myself, ‘I’m going to teach my kids about Rosa Parks today dressed like her.’ After that, I just kept doing it with other personalities.”
Goode says that her students love the fact that she dresses up to teach them.
“The first thing they do is go to the ‘Who Am I?’ board on the wall and try to guess who I’ve dressed up as that day. They also tell their parents about this and some of the parents will come into the classroom in the morning just to see who I am that day,” says Goode, who teaches at the Movement School, a charter school funded by former NFL tight end and Super Bowl champion Casey Crawford’s Movement Foundation. “Of course,
the kids laugh and giggle when I dress as a guy and put my mustache on. But they always listen intently as I read a story about that person or we watch video clips. It’s so cool to see light bulbs come on in their faces and witness the knowledge being gained.”
Though she may have stumbled upon this means of sharing key information about black history, Goode definitely understands how important it is.
“As a black American, I’m fully aware that most schools don’t teach our history,” she explains. “They’ll teach fragments and pieces, but we never learn about so many of the unsung American heroes or their stories. For me, representation is a huge thing. When I was little, opening up a children’s book and not finding characters that looked like me was tough. That circumstance limited my perception of myself. Now that I have a daughter of my own, I want her to see black and brown people that look like her who have changed the world, so that she knows that she can, too.”
Goode has the same desire for her students.
“I teach in a very poverty-stricken area and the majority of my students are black and brown,” she says. “They need people to look up to and they need to know their history. They need to know that their history didn’t start on a slave ship and that they are royalty. They need to know that they have a voice and can change the world just like Ruby Bridges or Audrey Faye Hendricks. They need to know that black girls put a man on the moon, and they can do that, too. They need to know that they, too, can be the first person do to something important or set records. They need to know they are grown from greatness and carry the seeds of change to affect the next generation.”
Some of the inspiration for her outlook Goode credits to a professor she had in the College’s School of Education, Health and Human Performance – Michelle Phillips.
“Professor Phillips truly, really believed in me,” Goode recalls. “She allowed me freedom with my projects and even piqued my interest in black history and jazz, and provided me with videos that I could later use in my classroom. Still to this day, she sends me links and resources to help me become a better educator and is constantly encouraging me as an educator and a mom. She inspires me to advocate for my students and their needs and teach them to advocate for themselves. They can’t do that without knowledge of who they are, and so this project allows me to give them insight on who they are and their piece in American history.”
What a perfect way to celebrate Black History Month – and history in general.