Tavis’ Most Influential Teachers

In America, 83% of teachers are white women. The group of students being left farthest behind are Black boys. The reality is that the future of Black boys in America is in the hands of white women.

In this video, Tavis discusses his two most influential teachers — both white women — and shares the lessons that they taught him, which he carries with him today.

  • Yolanda Brown

    Read and Reap!

  • kim scott

    hello! Mr. Smiley and how are you doing? fine I hope just want you to know that I appreciate you as one of
    our leaders of today and I heard what you said and how true it is we need more black teachers. I meet you in detroit michigan you signed my book the one you wrote i enjoyed it very much keep up the good fight I love you my brother and thankyou.have a nice day

  • Candace McCarty

    Due to the earthquake, hurricane Irene, a tornado, and recent surgery – I do not feel quite prepared for first day of school.

    However, this is touching. It is food for the soul, especially the evening before school begins! Thank you, kindly. Please let me know if you’d like to visit my classroom!
    Miss McCarty, 2nd Grade Teacher

  • Ian Avery

    Mr. Smiley, I am a teacher from Cincinnati, Ohio, but I grew up in Indiana, just like you. I should tell you I’m proud to be from the same state as you – I appreciate all you do. Your show is on too late for me to watch here in the Nati, but I try to keep up online.

    Just wanted to let you know that I’m in that small percentage of teachers who are white men, and I teach high school English. I teach advanced classes; some of the future intellectual leaders of our nation. I always try to expose them to the ideas that you espouse. They are the ideas that will help us all become better people. Thank you for ending every program with “Keep the faith.” I do, and I will continue to.

  • Kim Scott

    Mr. Smiley:

    I am excited about the information you have shared concering teachers. I am approaching the completion of my doctoral dissertation. The Topic deals with teacher preparation to educate African American Males in North Carolina. I would enjoy having a conversation with you about my dissertation findings.

  • Lara S

    This was an awesome video! Both my mother and father were teachers, actually my father is still teaching at age 70. Both are white. And what you say is true. Sometimes we will be out in public and someone whom one of my parents taught will approach and remark about the impact my mom or dad had on their life. Especially my father, since he is still teaching (my mother retired many years ago). My father has been teaching for over 45 years so he has had many students. On my dad’s 40th teaching anniversary some of his staff and colleagues (he is a college professor) had a lunch in his honor and I was able to attend. I remember several people telling me how wonderful my dad was and how much they appreciated him, but of course, I already knew how great he is.

    I thank you Mr Smiley for sharing your experiences and providing us with food for thought.

  • Mrs. M.

    Mr. Smiley. I appreciate what you have to say. I am a brown hispanic. I teach 2nd and I absolutely adore all of my students. There is no better feeling than your past students coming to see you once they have graduated highschool. It makes me proud that I had a hand in that. However, there are so many more to reach. It’s difficult because the proper lessons are not taught at home. You as a teacher have to shape what you have, and it is heartbreaking when as a teacher you think you have failed a student. However, realistically speaking the lessons have to begin at home and their community and continue into the classroom. As Hilary said “It takes a village”. We all have to work together.

  • PG

    Thank you, Tavis! We needed to re-focus our attention on the positive aspects of our educational system, like the impact that good teachers have on all of our children!

  • hitaji aziz

    So powerful: i raised two black sons and I have seen and been in the STORM. One went to prison and one went to the Navy…………………………………………………………………………..

  • CPT King US Army

    Mr. Smiley,
    Let me first say thank you for your commitment to the improvement of our people. By “Our people”, I mean Americans and our other Sisters and Brothers of this world. We are all sisters and brothers, regardless of color, ethnic background and religion. The sooner we realize that helping another brother or sister in turn helps ourselves. I am glad that you are bringing to light the disparity of the lack of proper education given to young black men. The education we receive in K-12 sets the foundation for our future success. The lack thereof directly creates or destiny; whether good or bad. There is a huge problem with the poor education or as I like to say MIS-EDUCATION of young black men in America. I have seen the same in many other areas of the world, primarily in underdeveloped regions. It is a known fact that, those individuals whom are not properly educated are more susceptible to be a burden on their society and are easier to be misguided. Just for example, I have seen in particular areas in the Middle East where many young men are illiterate, but they memorize the Quran. They memorize words, but do not grasp the true collective meaning or idea meant to be conveyed by the words as a collective. They are simply taught what to think by one individual, despite that person’s ideology. This is the problem with not been educated. Not being educated leaves you open to being led versus being free to lead yourself. We must invest in our future. If we truly care about our young brothers, we would equip them with the necessary tools to have life more abundantly and at a minimum not to be a burden on society.

  • Patty Denski

    Dear Mr. SMiley,

    Thank you for your wonderful report. I’m a public school teacher in Florida and most of my students are black. It’s sad to see some of them falling through the cracks. I believe we need to put more resources into supporting them from an early age and not just passing them from grade to grade because of stupid politics. Literacy is a big problem in high school that can be avoided once we leave politics behind and focus on what really matters: EDUCATION.

  • Mrs. K. D.

    Hi Tavis, (calling you by your first name because your my brother). I am the mother of three who lived on the south-side of Chicago. I moved to the suburbs so my boys could get a better education. In the 90’s they did not have all the advantages the black young men have now in Chicago. I sacrificed a great deal to move to this area and have no regrets. Tavis, I am greatful to have leaders such as your self to educate our people to what is really going on we can become blind to our enviornment living in it everyday. We are very proud of our boys one in college and one on the way (a senior with colleges contacting him). As a black woman I do want my sons to reach back and grab as many boys as they can and mentor and help mold them into outstanding, leading black men. It not only takes education but also requires others saying “I expect nothing less than your very best”. Thank you Tavis and please never leave us.

  • Ben Carter

    Very insightful indeed. Made me think about the teachers that influenced my life and success, they were all male in my day (50/60’s).

Last modified: September 1, 2011 at 8:57 pm
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