Women's History Month

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

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 ...

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