By Joseph Halm
Social studies teacher Blake Thompson sees himself as a catalyst.
"I'm just the 'hype man,'" he said. "I'm giving that critical feedback throughout the process that can take my students to the next level. But at the end of the day, it's all about the kids. They're putting in the work daily. We're making this proverb come true through their lives, so we as teachers just have to empower them."
Entering his second year at Livingston Collegiate Academy in New Orleans East, the energetic instructor uses an African proverb to guide his class: "Til the lion learns to write, every story will glorify the hunter."
"They really bought into this narrative of that we have very important work to do on a daily basis, so we can be change agents," he said. "They feel like we can expose the truths out there. Also, it allows for your voices to be heard because what we say matters."
Thompson is entering his fifth year of teaching after beginning his career in Marion, Ala. But his passion for social studies started at Elon University. A 21-year-old Thompson took a social justice class that highlighted the issues the black community has faced historically. It was "eye-opening."
"I thought to myself, 'Where has this been my whole life?'" he said. "I wondered what I else didn't know about this hidden history. I thought if children were exposed to that information that it would make our country a more equitable place."
Despite his father working as school resource officer, Thompson never had an interest in teaching before that class. After it, the fire was ignited. He said he wanted to make a difference in children's lives, and he believed the best way was to become a teacher.
That came from his personal experience of never having "someone who looked like me teaching me" when he was growing up.
"I really wish I would have had somebody that I could have seen myself in at the front of my classroom growing up," Thompson said. "I think it would have made my education that much more real, impactful."
Students have embraced Thompson's teaching style.
"When you go to class, you know you're about to find out the truth," sophomore Abyssinia Broad said. "You're so ready to learn that you don't realize the fact that you're about to do work. His energy just draws you into the lesson. You can't give a short answer in Mr. Thompson's class. You have to make sure you have the actual answer, and then you have to make sure you have your evidence."