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The struggles facing Black teachers during the COVID-19 pandemic: For the Culture

Carlo Dawson, an English teacher at South Pointe High in Rock Hill is entering her 20th year in education. To call it a struggle would be an understatement.

ROCK HILL, S.C. — Carlo Dawson, an English teacher at Rock Hill's South Pointe High School, is getting set to enter her 20th year in education, a milestone that's marked by the headstone of normalcy as she once knew it. 

Dawson said the past year has been a struggle, and not just because of the pandemic. During an interview with WCNC Charlotte's Billie Jean Shaw, Dawson outlined some of the unique challenges she's faced in the past year. 

“It’s definitely been a balancing act just trying to be there for my students and my own children,” Dawson said. 

That's because Dawson isn't your traditional teacher. Her style involved a lot of movement and a hands-on approach. However, throughout the pandemic, she's battled the limitations of virtual learning and connecting with students who need it the most.

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"I've noticed my African-American males have had the toughest time," Dawson explained. "We've known through research, usually those students are kinesthetic learners. Kinesthetic learners are students who learn through movement. That's hard with virtual learning."

Yet, Dawson is figuring it out. She incorporates assignments in her lessons that require students to leave their computer screens and walk around their home or outside as a part of their school work.

Another challenge she’s overcome is carrying the weight of not only the fear of the virus but the heaviness of the racial injustices that have spread over the country the last year.

Dawson has served as the advisor for multiple diversity and inclusion events and organizations on campus like PROGENY, which has come to an end due to virtual learning.

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As an educator of color, she continues to feel that responsibility and is now turning to creative ways to promote a safe space for her students.

“I’ve had students to ask me, 'hey Mrs. Dawson can you hang on a bit so I can talk to you about what’s happening,'” said Dawson. “I’ve even had a student about coming out to his family.”

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This is just a glimpse into the everyday struggles Dawson and other teachers alike are battling, but somehow they’ve aced the test of problem-solving during the pandemic and for that, Dawson says every single educator should be rewarded.

“Wouldn’t it had been great if all districts gave every single teacher, teacher of the year this year because teachers we’ve been through a lot," Dawson said.

Dawson has made the tough decision to teach from home again next school year. She plans on continuing to keep serve her students and now the community in a broader way by turning PROGENY into a non-profit organization. The organization would provide the following for schools and community-based chapters:

  • Professional development/learning opportunities for advisors/instructional leaders
  • Workshops for students and advisors/instructional leaders
  • Lesson plans
  • Diversity, equality and inclusion  events/performances
  • Event planning tools

If you have an “For the Culture” story idea, email Billie Jean Shaw at bshaw@wcnc.comFollow Billie Jean on Facebook and Instagram.

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