No one knows what life has planned or what paths we may take. Christina Cole Spears, ’13, ’14 (MAT) never imagined the direction her life would take after a discussion with her professor.
“Dr. O’Dekirk asked if I thought of becoming a teacher,” said Spears. “I never saw myself being a teacher, but he suggested I talk to Dr. Parker in the education department.” After graduating from Meredith with two bachelor’s degrees, Spears returned to earn both her Master of Arts in Teaching and her Teaching Licensure.
Five years later, Spears is the special assistant in Wake County Public School System’s (WCPSS) Office of Equity Affairs. Spears is regularly found educating teachers on how to be aware of cultural differences and how to teach in a culturally responsive manner.
“I like being in the classroom,” said Spears. “I often co-teach on race relations, social justice, and African American studies. I also help teachers develop lesson plans that are culturally proactive.”
None of this would be possible without her ability to identify inequities and her willingness to speak up about them. Before her current position, Spears was a special education teacher for WCPSS. Using the skills gained from Meredith’s Autism Program, shadowing teachers, and her time spent as a youth mentor at a church, she aimed to not only teach her students study skills but life skills. Needless to say, Spears fell in love with teaching.
However, no amount of love could make Spears unsee the disparities within the school system. She noticed the majority of students in special education classes were often boys of color and how white students were more likely to be taking and referred to Advanced Placement classes. Spears joined the Equity Office in an effort to make a difference.
Being a woman of color, Spears admits it was challenging to see the data, but she can’t imagine doing anything else. “I see myself doing equity work in education 20 years from now.”
As much as Spears enjoys her work, she emphasizes the importance of caring for oneself. “It’s hard work and heart work,” said Spears. “The challenge is seeing the inequities and wanting to go-go because there is so much to do. You have to take care of yourself and know yourself to be able to help the students. These are our kids, they are our future.”