February 22, 2024

Black History Month Feature: Sharmayne Rutledge, Ph. D.

What drew you to a career in education?

My initial attraction to education was sparked in Mrs. Pond's 1st grade classroom at Walnut Hills Elementary School (now BRPVCA). She was a very kind and nurturing teacher, patient and encouraging while ensuring all students learned in a safe space. As a child who experienced learning challenges, other teachers such as Mr. Mills, Dr. Stella Righteous, and Mrs. Clare Joseph-Whitley played an intricate and vital role in ensuring that I was successful as a student by staying after school and teaching me how to study, take notes, and apply the information I learned to other subjects. Because of the influence of such great teachers, I wanted to offer the same type of learning experience to other students.  

Why is it important to celebrate Black History Month in our classrooms?  

Celebrating Black History in classrooms is essential throughout the year, not just in February. When appropriately celebrated, it can inspire and empower students by teaching them the struggles and challenges of so many heroes and she-roes who have come and gone before them. Further, celebrating Black History serves as a means by which we accurately and fully educate all students about history while exposing them to the significant contributions, accomplishments, and achievements of Black leaders, scientists, artists, activists, and others throughout history. It also promotes diversity and respect for different cultures, races, and backgrounds while fostering empathy and understanding. Finally, celebrating Black History in classrooms provides students with a more comprehensive understanding of history and society, and it empowers students to challenge the status quo, advocate for equality, and serve as participants in creating inclusive environments.

What are your hopes for the future of education in Baton Rouge?  

It is my hope that the future of education in Baton Rouge will be more focused, inclusive, equitable, and accessible for all students. To achieve this, we all (the leaders and citizens of Baton Rouge) must work together to ensure that all students, regardless of race, socioeconomic status, family makeup, learning style, zip code, or interest, receive a quality education that is supportive, diverse, values and respects the needs of each student. Further, I hope that one day, Baton Rouge will serve as the educational model for other cities to follow.

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