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Black Educators Rock, Inc.- An Intimate Perspective

An interview with BER-Maryland Representative Altamese Thompkins Larkins about Black Educators Rock, Inc., being an educator, and a word of encouragement for educators.


I had the privilege of meeting Altamese during the summer of 2017 through our positive affirming interactions on social media. Altamese connected with me and began providing feedback and affirmations regarding my blog posts from content on the subject of classroom management for educators in Facebook groups and on my Facebook timeline. Our connection speaks to the power of social media in positive ways in bringing people together. Connecting on Facebook led to me attending a Black Educators Rock-Maryland meet and greet in Hyattsville, Maryland in the Fall of 2017 and my attendance and participation as a presenter in the 2018 Black Educators Rock Conference in Jacksonville, Florida. To learn more about Altamese, her role as the Maryland Representative of BER, Inc. and the organization Black Educators Rock, Inc. I invite you to share in this interview with Altamese following the 2018 Conference in July in Jacksonville, Florida:


Tell us about who Altamese is: Altamese Larkins is a Child of The King, wife, mother, daughter, sister and educator! Passionate in all roles that have been placed upon me in this road called life. It is my goal to fill in that dash between my birth and going Home with as much love, encouragement and empowerment as one person can possibly give to everyone that crosses my path!


How did you first connect with BER? I first connected with BER while overseas in Japan! I was a bit home and career sick. Being a member of the Facebook group allowed me to stay connected with an awesome group of educators like myself, share and get ideas on successful culturally relevant, and research based strategies, ideas and practices.


What led to you becoming the Maryland-BER representative? After engaging in many topics, conversations, comments and posts I was forever changed through the collaboration, the help and advice, and empoWErment the group had to offer both new and seasoned educators. When I moved back to the states, I discovered there was a Maryland chapter. Although I decided to take a leave of absence after coming stateside, becoming the Maryland state representative allowed me to give back to the organization. After all, everyone poured into me and fulfilled a yearning, I felt each day, to connect with Brown educators like me.


What do you do in your role as the state rep for BER? In my role as state rep for BER, I admin the Maryland facebook group, disseminate information from the organization to the MD state group, share information about education in MD as well as organize our meet and greets and my vision was to begin a founding chapter. That is still in the works. Would you like to partake in becoming a founding member. Cortland, I think you and Simone' would be great, as you both clearly have a vision that is in line with that of Black Educators Rock!


What are some upcoming events you have in mind for Maryland-BER? Some upcoming events I have in mind for MD-BER is a virtual meet and greet followed by an invitation to form our founding chapter, delegate and vote on roles and get the ball rolling to focus on any initiative(s) that would be beneficial to educators and students in our state.


What is it like working with BER CEO Dr. Melissa Chester? How would you describe her leadership as the CEO of BER? It is wonderful working with Dr. Chester. I have always seen her vision, so working to achieve that vision is always our focus. In doing so, we compliment each other well with our unique personalities. Dr. Chester's leadership has helped me become a better leader, recognizing some of my strengths and weaknesses. Under Doc, as I affectionately call her, I have definitely learned to be more assertive and firm with a whole lot of passion for what I do! That has become the perfect recipe for the ongoing success of BER. I have assertively (which has been a positive gain for me) reached out and engaged many members that have turned out to play key roles in the strengthening of Black Educators Rock, Inc., including you my friend!


As one of the 2018 BER Conference organizers, what was the experience like from your perspective? As a Conference organizer, Assistant Conference Coordinator, to be exact, the experience was one in which I will use for years to come to stay connected with the dynamic educators, speakers and presenters I became to know personally via email, phone and virtually. I loved being able to assist those through the process of calls to action, answers to our calls and planning up to and beyond the conference. The follow-up, feedback and fidelity of each person that attended and presented was the most rewarding outcome of the hard work and dedication we all poured into the conference.


What was a memorable moment for you from the conference? A memorable moment for me at the conference was listening to Dr. Terell Strayhorn's keynote address. That session was filled with every feeling available to man. I expressed happiness, joy, laughter, sadness peace and understanding on so many different levels, my heartstrings were forever impacted. The occasion was both personal and intimate, for each person got the message from the Messenger that morning! It reminded me of the intricate detail of a storytellers web, bringing me back full circle, to my roots and ancestors!


We as a people and especially educators need to do more soul searching if we are ever able to bring our purpose to fruition.

Was this year’s conference the first you attended / helped to organize? If no, how was this one different? Last year 2017 was the first conference I attended. That was my first experience of volunteering my services as the webinar/tech member of the BER Team. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of fellowship and friendship that was bestowed upon me that first year. It left me yearning for the following 2018 conference. This one was different because I played a more intricate role as a result of my assistance from the year before. I reached in and did what I do! SERVE...I felt personally connected to many of the speakers, as I began to reach out to those that I admired and felt had the same passion for teaching and learning as I did. They then became the pillars of the talent we had at the conference. There was such a wide range of topics from new, veteran and renowned educators. I'm positive that everyone left the conference with the desire to be greater as another year begins to approach upon us. Each year tops the previous and I think it will be the same for 2019!


Why should educators of color consider attending the annual conference? Educators of color should consider attending the annual conference because, although we get multiple opportunities for professional development throughout the school year, there is that need to connect with educators and celebrate US, our uniqueness, our talents and our needs in a way that only a ROCK Conference can do. I like to call it the ROCK Conference Experience, because it is like none other!


How would increase in membership help BER? An increase in membership would help BER become self sufficient so we can give more to the community, provide resources that OUR schools need, help make the conference more affordable and allow us to begin to pay the dynamic speakers and breakout presenters that selflessly volunteer and give their expertise, time and money to help make the conference a success FOR US BY US!

What significant changes have you seen occur since you’ve committed to supporting BER? Significant changes I've seen occur since I've committed to supporting BER is the ability to give that personal touch to our members, paid and unpaid, bringing more educators into the strategic mission and vision for Black Educators Rock, Inc., an increase in membership, edupreneurship and fellowship amongst our group members near and far. Finally, the beginning of a movement that will surely change the face of education as we know it today!


What significant changes have you seen occur since you’ve committed to supporting BER? Significant changes I've seen occur since I've committed to supporting BER is the ability to give that personal touch to our members, paid and unpaid, bringing more educators into the strategic mission and vision for Black Educators Rock, Inc., an increase in membership, edupreneurship and fellowship amongst our group members near and far. Finally, the beginning of a movement that will surely change the face of education as we know it today!


As an educator what do you see as important considerations in your role to best help students excel and thrive? As an educator important considerations to best help students excel and thrive are acknowledging their unique ability to be successful in their own way. That way could be cultural, intellectually, or bundled up in a way we have yet to experience, but one of my favorite quotes is by Marie Clay (look her up if you get a chance) "Highlight my strengths and my weaknesses will disappear." I truly believe this as the core of my success with students, parents, co workers and stakeholders alike. 

To ensure longevity and productivity how have you learned to cope as an educator? To ensure longevity and productivity I have learned to cope first and foremost by recognizing I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Another coping mechanism is surrounding myself with positive educators that have the same ethics, beliefs and passion about education as I do. Most importantly, I look at every student, educator, parent and stakeholder as a purpose for my existence as an educator.

There is something they need from me and something I need from them in order to fulfill the promise of our path! It is up to us to find out how and why! THAT'S MY WHY!!!!
As we prepare to return to work can you leave us with some encouraging thoughts to take with us back to the classroom? As we prepare to return to work I challenge everyone to find your "W"! Who is each one of your students? Why is EACH student in your class? When will you know your mission has been fulfilled? Where will this encounter take both you and them, next?

What is your WHY? The foundation of your success and the success of our students are wrapped up in that infamous question!
Learn more about Black Educators Rock, Inc. by visiting their website http://blackeducatorsrockinc.com. The BER Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/groups/BlackEducatorsRock/learning_content/ Visit my blog gracetoteach.wordpress.com for more tips, info, and classroom management strategies.
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