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Member & Activist Spotlight

‘I grew up seeing the impact educators have on students’

Chad Wilson is an alternative education social studies teacher at Watkins Mill High School in Montgomery County, Maryland.
Chad Wilson
Published: October 20, 2023

I come from a family of educators. For many African American families like mine, getting a good education was the way to a better financial future.

My aunt was assistant superintendent of public schools in Pittsburg, and she used to bring my cousin and I with her when it was ‘bring your child to work day.’ So, I grew up going to those high schools and seeing the impact that educators have on students.

Education is important to me, as well as supporting my community and students and having someone that looks like me in front of them in the classroom.

Something that was discouraging and difficult for me throughout my education career, until actually my last class in my master’s program, was that I did not have a teacher that looked like me. I had some great teachers and some amazing educators in my life, but always in the back of my mind: There’s nobody standing in front of the classroom that looked like me, that I could sit down to talk about what was happening within the African American community.

As a teacher today, I’m mindful that I need to reach students that look like me and have the same background as me to show them that we can be successful.

I grew up in a household where my first and second cousins had autism. We also fostered a student that had significant disabilities and needs. This led me into my master’s program in special education.

I look for the little things every day. Those little “aha!” moments, those little smiles, handshakes, and high fives. When a kid finds somebody, like me, that they know supports them and you see them improve and grow. That’s what makes this job special.

To quote Ta-Nehisi Coates, ‘History is not solely about heroes and wars. It's about what people do in the quiet moments when no one is looking.’ To me, education and teaching are about those heroes who work in those quiet moments.

When you’re a first-year teacher, you’re overwhelmed with so many things. There are so many questions that you have. Liz Jones, an educator, started telling me about the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA). I became a building representative, got involved with the Political Action Committee, and I am in my second term as Board of Directors for MCEA.

The one thing I always appreciated is that I saw representation of every background working together towards a common goal, to improve education, support students, and create better working environments for teachers. It doesn’t matter where you’re from or what you look like, our mindset is to keep moving forward and that we need to help our students and help each other.

The Maryland State Education Association (MSEA), NEA, and MCEA have always given me a platform to be an activist and advocate for LGBTQA+ rights as well as minority educators and minority students. They have also given me the ability to grow as a person, educator, and activist.

National Education Association

Great public schools for every student

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.