Being A New Teacher Of Color At Clackamas High School

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Anthony Bailey, math teacher at Clackamas High School.

AJ Sugg, Senior Reporter

Shortly after coming back to school during the COVID-19 pandemic, many of Clackamas High School’s staff transferred to the new high school, Adrienne C. Nelson. With this transition, Clackamas needed many new teachers to fill empty roles. Two of which are young teachers from completely different backgrounds in education. One is Jamar Taylor, who is fresh out of college teaching for his first year. The other is Anthony Bailey, who previously taught in Texas before moving to Oregon. Taylor is a government teacher, and Bailey is a geometry and algebra teacher. 

While they come from completely different backgrounds in education, they both share a lot in common. They are both advisors for the Black Student Union (BSU) and love hearing students stories about their experiences as people of color (POC). 

“The Black Student Union has really helped me be aware of my students and really reach out to them on a further basis, letting them see that I’m not just here for your educational growth but I’m here for your growth as an individual as well.” Bailey says.

He expresses that being able to give his students a person to look up to is very important, especially if they are minorities. He wants to be a role model for them because he never had that sense of solidarity growing up in an area where there were very few black POC around him that he could relate to.

Both Bailey and Taylor agree that they are very fortunate to have such understanding students. 

“Honestly, this is better than the dream. I feel like the students have embraced me way more than I ever thought they would have.” says Taylor, who feels like his students made becoming a teacher better than he ever thought it would be.

“I get so much and learn so much from my BSU students.” Bailey states. “My students may always teach me something new that I didn’t know. Or if I say something out of ignorance, my students are always there to help me learn and to help me grow.” 

Although Bailey and Taylor are both enjoying their time at Clackamas they both addressed, the elephant in the room–which is the vandalism incident from last year that sparked months of controversy. This incident involved students using refried beans and Trump campaign stickers to portray an anti-Latinx message. 

There still is this uncertainty about it. People want to address it and it hasn’t been addressed as a large thing,” Taylor explains.  “I’ve had a bunch of racist acts happen to me. It just sucks every single time. It doesn’t get easier.”

This incident has impacted new teachers in a multitude of ways. Some are personal, some even involve concern for the safety of their students. 

It’s given me more of an emphasis on safety for my students, and really gave me an emphasis on making a classroom where they feel comfortable being themselves, expressing themselves and really embracing their own cultures and backgrounds as well,” says Bailey. 

Adjusting to a new environment as a teacher of color is difficult, but as a student it can be even more challenging. Both Taylor and Bailey offer a word of advice to young people of color looking for a sense of belonging and solidarity at school.   

“You’re not alone. First of all, you have a community that is here to embrace you and help you with that transition. It gets easier. There’s importance in you being that representative since there’s so little of us, people are always watching you more,” Bailey says. 

Join an affinity group- It might be a little intimidating, but go find your people, they’re out there,” Taylor says.