Judging Success by Molding Hearts, Minds and Character – The Vineyard Gazette – Martha’s Vineyard News

Deborah (DC) Cutrer knew she wanted to become a teacher from a young age, when she met her third grade teacher, Mrs. Tina Coleman.

She was the only black woman I had ever seen in a position of responsibility and respect, DC said. Seeing her and realizing the importance and the significance for children of color to see someone of color in positions that represent respectful, authoritative, compassionate, inspiring opportunities for them to pursue. I never changed my mind, since third grade. Tina Coleman, that was going to be me.

DC would go on to a teaching career that spanned 35 years, beginning in Tucson, Ariz. where she grew up, and ending this spring when she retired from the Marthas Vineyard Public Charter School, where she has taught middle school and high school math for 18 years.

DC said one of the most rewarding aspects of her job has been the ability to bond with her students and watch them grow.

Thats the advantage of being at the charter school, she said. You get to watch some of these kids walk into the building as kindergarteners then walk across the stage as graduates.

DC began her career in the Flowing Wells school district in Arizona where she said the teachers were encouraged to pursue professional development, helping her to master the techniques of crafting solid lesson plans.

Coming to the charter school I brought all those skills with me, but what the charter school gave me was the realization that education needs to do more than dispense knowledge. Its got to also dispense compassion and understanding. Its got to dispense activists into the community. Its got to dispense explorers and travelers and its not all about math. All those other things, math, science, English, social studies, they all come in, but the bigger picture at the charter school is to create well rounded human beings.

As an example, DC mentioned Graysen Kirk, who attended the charter school from kindergarten through eighth grade and recently organized the rally against police brutality and racial injustice at Five Corners in Vineyard Haven.

That passion and the freedom to think for yourself and to be an activist or to be a pacifist or to be whatever it is you feel it is you need to be in this world, the charter school gives license to kids to do that, she said. We dont chop kids, we dont take off their edges and put them into a hole that we think best suits them. There are no cookie cutters at the charter school. The charter school is a free-form cookie, we just mold every little cookie with our hands.

DC said her fellow teachers have also made a lasting impact on her.

The teachers I teach with here are amazing human beings and brilliant educators and are driven by salaries that are less than most, a time expectation that is greater than many. But the longevity in the building is represented

by the dedication of the teachers and

the families that bring their children to this school.

And while DC said it is the right time for her to retire it wasnt an easy decision.

Walking away is part of the journey. Walking away is a part of the whole process. Youve got to know when its time. Its not always about you, nature abhors a vacuum. With my leaving I know the young woman who they have hired is going to come in here and do a job that will surpass mine and thats all I would ever want to see after leaving a position.

DC has no concrete plans for what she will do next, other than spending more time with her grandson. Another grandchild is due to arrive in September.

This is not an easy place to walk away from, she said. Im glad that I know that the door is always open to me.

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Judging Success by Molding Hearts, Minds and Character - The Vineyard Gazette - Martha's Vineyard News

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