2018-2019 District Teacher of the Year Jamal McCullen

Jamal McCullen is a 5th- grade educator who teaches English Language Arts and Social Studies. His entry into the field of education was the unexpected outcome of spousal and sibling influence and divine intervention. At a career crossroads, his wife and two sisters encouraged him to consider becoming a teacher. According to them, his rapport with children and his high regard for learning made him an excellent “fit” for the classroom. Additionally, they each stressed the need for more African-American males in the classroom. After introspection and prayer, Jamal decided to respond to the “call.” In the eight years since he has been blessed with a sense of reward and fulfillment beyond any ever experienced.
 
As an educator, Jamal’s philosophy of teaching aligns with the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who said, “Intelligence plus character-that is the goal of true education.” As such, he attempts to affect those attributes on the students he encounters. Jamal not only strives to impart knowledge but also works to build character and respect for and among his students. His main objective is for them to see value in themselves. Subsequently, that self-worth should promote the valuation of education. Inevitably, each student would be prepared to overcome obstacles to achieve their life goals while positively contributing to society at large.
 
Regarding contributions to society, Jamal has always maintained a presence in his community. As a college student, Jamal spent parts of his summers interacting with youth in the low-income housing complex managed by his mother. As a young husband and father, Jamal’s community involvement continued as he found himself involved in his daughters’ various activities. As a professional firefighter, Jamal was a fixture at elementary schools and summer camps as a safety educator. Furthermore, through the brotherhood of his fraternity, he has served the community in a wide variety of educational, economic, social, cultural, and civic ways.
 
As far as his professional contributions, Jamal’s standout accomplishment began during his first year of teaching but culminated years later. In that first year, a male student allied himself with Jamal and assisted him with everything from classroom management to school procedures. Soon, Jamal began getting compliments from the student’s former teachers for the changes in his behavior. Unaware of the student’s prior reputation, he was awed by the credit he was given for making a difference. Surprisingly, when confronted about his past behavior, the student confessed to having been a problem for teachers before. He added that he had changed simply because he never had a “man” teacher before. That revelation made Jamal realize the impact his mere presence could have. By the end of the year, Jamal had convinced the student to become involved with football. In the years after, the student became a leader in the classroom and on the football field. His story of change and achievement inspires Jamal to seek that same success with other students-putting them on a pathway to their personal goals.
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