Women Educators Who Have Shaped My Teaching Career: Dawn Watts-Bolds

Mar 27, 2023 12:23:34 PM

by Kwame Sarfo-Mensah

May 18th, 2006 will mark the day I completed my undergraduate education at Temple University.

It was a proud day. My entire family was in attendance to bask in the moment. Graduation was the culmination of my hard work, dedication, and countless all-night study sessions to achieve this singular goal. Earning a college degree was an expectation in my family because we always prioritized the power of education. And when I finished my undergraduate degree, the question then became, "What's next?" I earned a degree. What would I do with it?

I mean, it was a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mathematics. What could I possibly do with it? There were many ways in which I could apply my degree. I could apply it to the areas of business, finance, engineering, or actuarial science, but none of those areas interested me. What I did know at the time was that I liked working with kids. I knew I was pretty good at doing that. I wasn't totally sold on the idea of becoming a teacher, but I did know that I wanted to continue to work with kids in some capacity. And I knew I had to make a decision since I was officially a part of the "real world." I needed to obtain a real job so I could continue to pay my rent, utilities, and all of my other expenses.

Given my interest in working with kids, I decided to apply to AmeriCorps, and through that program, I was able to join an organization called EducationWorks. EducationWorks primarily focuses on improving the quality of education in urban schools. The organization had partnerships with many schools within the School District of Philadelphia and their main function was to enhance the quality of those schools through the implementation of socialized recess, in-class assistance, and after-school and summer camp programs. One of those schools was the Tanner Duckrey School, where I was placed. 

Her patience and ability to maintain a sense of calm in challenging situations made it very easy for me to work at the school and not be afraid to make mistakes.  

Upon arriving there, I would meet my supervisor, Dawn Bolds. I loved working with Dawn! She was the type of leader who didn’t believe in micromanaging people. She allowed individuals to just do their job. If any of the team members were struggling to perform on the job, she was the one who would give encouragement and many opportunities to turn things around. She was the type of individual who did everything possible to keep the team intact. Her patience and ability to maintain a sense of calm in challenging situations made it very easy for me to work at the school and not be afraid to make mistakes.  

At this time, I was still in the process of figuring out what career path I would take once I completed my AmeriCorps term. I knew I wanted to continue working with children in some capacity, but Dawn was the one who really instilled in me the confidence to enter the teaching world. 

As the school year was winding down, Dawn was completing performance evaluations on all of our team members. These evaluations were important because the top officials at EducationWorks' central office viewed these documents to help determine whether we satisfied the work requirements to earn their education award at the end of the term. As I expected, Dawn gave me a very positive performance evaluation. She made specific mention of my ability to positively interact with the students and my high level of professionalism on the job.

It was that very moment that solidified my decision to pursue a career in teaching. 

The final comment she wrote proved to be the most compelling. She insisted that I strongly consider a career in teaching because of the manner in which I went about dealing with the students and my potential to be a great role model to my future students. It was that very moment that solidified my decision to pursue a career in teaching. 

Even though I was leaning toward a career in teaching, I still needed the assurance that I truly had what it takes to be a successful teacher and, thankfully, Dawn provided me with that. Dawn gave me that extra nudge that changed the trajectory of my life and blessed me with purpose, gratitude, and humility. She embodied what it means to be a true leader and motivator, and she opened my eyes to what was possible.

Dawn Watts-Bolds gave me the foresight to see that my intended purpose on this Earth is to impact and enrich the lives of young children and I will be forever grateful. 

Kwame Sarfo-Mensah

Kwame Sarfo-Mensah is the founder of Identity Talk Consulting, LLC., an independent educational consulting firm that provides professional development and consulting services globally to educators who desire to enhance their instructional practices and reach their utmost potential in the classroom. He is the author of two books, "Shaping the Teacher Identity: 8 Lessons That Will Help Define the Teacher in You" and his latest, "From Inaction to 'In Action': Creating a New Normal for Urban Educators". Throughout his 14-year career as a middle school math educator, author, and entrepreneur, Kwame has been on a personal mission to uplift and empower educators who are committed to reversing the ills of the public education system in America and around the world. As a staunch ambassador and advocate for teacher empowerment, Kwame has spoken at numerous national education conferences and worked diligently to support the recruitment and retention of teachers of color in the education system. In January 2019, he was one of 35 Massachusetts teachers of color chosen by Commissioner Jeff Riley to be in the inaugural cohort of the InSPIRED (In-Service Professionals Increasing Racial and Ethnic Diversity) Fellowship, an initiative organized by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for veteran teachers of color to recruit students of color at the high school, undergraduate and graduate levels to teach in targeted districts within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. As an InSPIRED Teaching Fellow, Kwame facilitated professional development workshops for aspiring teachers at universities such as Boston College, UMass Boston, and Worcester State University and has served as a guest speaker for non-profit teacher pipeline programs such as Generation Teach and Worcester Public Schools’ Future Teachers Academy. A proud graduate of Temple University, Kwame holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics and a master's degree in education. He was honored as the 2019 National Member of the Year by Black Educators Rock, Inc. for his unwavering commitment to the advancement of the teacher profession.

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