Throughout the year, we’ll be profiling Heroes in the Classroom, our nod to the teachers doing tremendously hard work, day in and day out. They don’t get enough praise for the heart and soul they put into their kids’ success, so we hope to use this series as a platform to show our gratitude for all they’re doing to make a difference in the lives of their students.
Invictus Preparatory Charter School 6th grade social studies teacher Latarri Sample is living proof that a great education – and great teachers – can change the course of a child’s life.
“When I was a kid, I wasn’t privileged. I went to public schools in Baltimore and I was in special education classes. Learning wasn’t always easy for me. But I had several teachers along the way who helped me, pushed me, and inspired me,” Mr. Sample said.
He credits a math teacher he had in school for choosing this profession saying, “She told me I should be a teacher. And Ms. Watts was an educator who helped me hone in on academics."
“With her help, eventually I doubled my motivation and persevered, and was taken out of special education classes in 9th grade. These struggles through adversity prompted me to become a teacher. I can relate and empathize with kids when they are frustrated with their own learning and I can help them work through it.”
Mr. Sample taught for 10 years in Baltimore City Schools before moving to Brooklyn to teach at a charter school. He is also something of a rarity in New York City schools. He’s a black man – and serves as a role model for his students at a time when the city is prioritizing ways to recruit more black men into teaching roles. A recent Chalkbeat story says that “Asian, black, and Hispanic boys make up 43 percent of the over one million public-school students” but just over 8 percent of the city’s 76,000 teachers are men of color.
Mr. Sample says he knows he is a role model for his kids because they can see some of themselves in him – and he hopes it pushes them to be even better than he is.
“I love what I do. I know my kids look forward to my class. Every morning it makes me so happy to see my kids come in; I love watching my students blossom and flourish.”
Mr. Sample’s colleague Christine Johnson, Marketing & Development Manager at Invictus Prep, is the one who nominated him for this series. She told us it’s not only Mr. Sample’s work with kids that makes him shine.
“Mr. Sample is a leader among teachers. He is extremely well respected on staff because of his work with coaching and training other educators. He contributes to the school on a number of levels. Additionally, you should see him in the classroom. He has great management skills and can be strict – but the kids love him. It’s a balance he has struck really well. He lets his kids know it’s ok to have fun while you’re learning.”
Ms. Johnson also told us he’s interactive with the class, gets them to think deeply, and that parents love him as well.
“They are in frequent contact with him. He makes a point to contact home not just when things are going badly, but when things are going well too. Mr. Sample gives the parents due credit when the kids are doing well. And they have a direct line to him whenever they need him – whether it’s through email, phone or text.”
She added: “This is his calling. You can see that teaching is essential to the core of who he is. His passion is obvious to the kids, parents and staff.”
We asked Mr. Sample about one of his proudest moments.
“I had a student this year who struggled a lot. He was struggling with depression, and issues at home. We took gradual steps to get him up to speed. He wanted to work but we were working on poetry – that can be difficult for urban kids, who aren’t used to it. We used a reading strategy for him to grasp poetry, and he worked so hard. At the end of the lesson, he got a 100% and he was so happy. He put the effort in. I was just there to guide him.
“They may depend on me, but I depend on them too. I enjoy what I do. I love what I do. It’s what I was meant to do. It’s hard but it’s worth it to see them become upstanding citizens.”
We tip our hats to Mr. Sample who is making a positive impact on kids, teacher and families – and providing testimony that anything is possible.
For more from Mr. Sample in his own words, click here: