When Erica McLeod stands up in front of her classroom of seventh graders, she doesn’t get discouraged by middle school attitudes or a lack of enthusiasm. She doesn’t take it personally when students don’t always vocalize their appreciation for their teachers and educators. Because Erica knows, that sometimes even the best teachers go unthanked, but that doesn’t mean their impact isn’t profound.
“My favorite educator was a man named Dr. Jack at Winston-Salem State University,” Erica says, remembering her African American studies professor from her alma mater. “The passion that this man had when he spoke about the subject was something I had never experienced before. He probably has no idea how much he inspired me and how grateful I am to have had him as my professor in college. I’m living proof that students won’t always tell you how you changed their life, but you will always leave an imprint. Make sure it’s a good one.”
This driving motivation, “make it a good one,” is exactly what led Erica to be nominated as the Extraordinary Educator at Welborn Academy of Science and Technology. And she’s well on her way to the same level of passion that Dr. Jack displayed in his classroom. Welborn administrator, Dr. Ashauna Harris says that Erica is “one-of-a-kind.”
“She is extremely passionate about educating our students regardless of what they bring to the table,” Dr. Harris says. “She believes that all students can achieve and pushes all her students to reach their potential in and out of the classroom.”
At the end of each school year, Erica notes the students who share how much they disliked social studies before coming to her class. She sees it as a huge victory when they walk away from seventh-grade social studies understanding the subject and being excited by it.
Now, after seven years of working at Welborn, Erica describes her students as unmatched. She says she is stunned every year by the intelligence, creativity, and authenticity of her students. And in turn she pushes them, as Dr. Harris observed, to be the very best version of themselves – even it means taking risks.
“Take risks. Bet on yourself,” Erica tells her students. “You’re a lot smarter, stronger, and more capable than you give yourself credit for. If you never take risks and break through barriers, then you’ll live a life of ‘what if’s’ and there’s no gain in that!”
And this mentality of believing in yourself was fostered in Erica by her parents, who she calls her biggest influences on teaching. While her parents weren’t necessarily educators in the way that Erica is now, they taught her valuable lessons about how to love her students, speak truth, and remain upfront.
“My mother and father are the greatest people I know,” Erica says. “My mother will simply ‘tell you like it is,’ and she is such a nurturer… My father is a bishop, and I watch him teach people all the time. He is very relatable and breaks the Gospel down into understandable truths for everyday people. When I teach my students, I have learned to make it extremely relatable, to be honest, and upfront with them, and to always nurture.”
Discover our High Points,
The HPD Team
Photography by Maria West Photography