Degrees and Certifications:
Bachelor or Arts Masters in Education
Mr. Steve James
I grew up in a small town in New York state called Otisville. My father was the minister at the Presbyterian church in that town. When I was 7 or 8 years old my father traveled away for two weeks. He went to another small town in Mississippi with a group of local pastors. It could have been Hattiesburg. I knew he was going to try to help some people, but not much more than that. About a week into his stay there, my mother got a call from him. He and the rest of his group had been thrown into jail for lawfully protesting for the rights of black folks to vote. I remember that my mother and some congregation members experienced some high anxiety over this incident. This was the beginning of my understanding of race and social justice in this country.
I finished grade school in Otisville and we moved to Yorktown Heights N.Y. where I finished middle and high school. Then I went off to Juniata college, graduated and fell into the restaurant business for twenty eight years. I started as a line cook. Progressed from that to kitchen manager, then floor manager, and eventually on to general manager. I got married and Burdette and I started a family. Then I went into business for myself.
One night eighteen years later, everything changed. I had a particularly vivid archtypal dream. At the age of 50, I decided that I wanted to teach. There was a lot to get through to reach the goal, but the dream seemed to carry me through it all somehow. All of the obstacles that seemed to be in the way, seemed to be cleared from the way, successively. I made plans to sell my business and did. All of the financial roadblocks disappeared. I was accepted into the graduate program at the University of Bridgeport and graduated with exellent grades. Then, perhaps the largest obstacle, landing a position also evaporated, as one of our English teachers retired. I was subsequently hired for the postion.
Even though he is not around any more, I meet my father every day when I step into my classroom (or these days, my virtual classroom). He was my first social justice teacher. I have spent the last fourteen years teaching and learning. Often doing the latter first. Two things stand out for me as I look back over those years. One is that we are all inextricably interconnected. That means that we are all in relation with one another, whether we actually know each other or not. The second thing is that when we see ourselves as separate entities (are racist for one) we cause damage to one another. I find as a teacher that the best thing I can do in the classroom is to attempt to make a reconnection with my students. To truly be with them. Any success I have had, as a teacher and a human being, has always come by traveling down this road. The result is that the last fourteen years have been the most rewarding years of my life.