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Propel Schools Makes Teaching Rewarding and Memorable. Join The Team. (9049 hits)


When a visitor ascends the stairs to the second floor of the Propel Charter Schools Hazelwood Campus, one of the first things they will hear are happy voices resonating from Room 207.

You see, room 207 is a classroom, usually filled with third and fourth grade science students, eager to see what “Mr. B” has in store for them. Peeking in the window, we see Mr. B (AKA Ernest Blackwell) settling the class and animatedly explaining the day’s science lesson.

Ernest Blackwell never intended to be in a classroom. During his college years, Ernest had decided upon a law career and that a courtroom, not a classroom, was the place for him. While preparing law school applications in his senior year of college, Ernest volunteered as an afterschool tutor – an event that would change the course of his career.

"I noticed a student in the hallway who was just frustrated with his work and was unable to be calmed by any staff. After speaking with his teacher she stated 'This is just what he does'. That comment really struck a tone with me. I found myself constantly thinking about that and the lack of expectations she had for her students. I had never considered education before. I found myself asking 'what can I do?' while knowing that I HAD to do something. I reflected upon my past and remembered I had teachers just like that who didn’t care and didn’t expect much of me. I can count on one hand the teachers who actually motivated me and expected greatness from me. I knew then that it was time for me to be in the classroom."

This change in trajectory was almost unsettling for Ernest. “As a young African male growing up I became use to violence and accustomed to hearing bad news. Many of my friends who I grew up with had fallen into violence or the criminal justice system.” His journey through Pittsburgh’s Duquesne University and then Master’s Program at Wilmington University led him to a position with Teach For America and then to Propel Charter Schools.

“I loved that Propel had such a strong mission and presence in underserved communities. Serving urban youth is one of the most challenging and rewarding facets of a teaching career. Being a part of Hazelwood is also important to me, as an African American man. What is a community without an education for their children? How can you sustain a community without fair access to excellent schools?” Nodding his head, Ernest completes his thought, “I smile all day because I am honored to be their teacher. As educators we have a great responsibility to educate and shape the minds of tomorrow. The future of this country is dependent upon the success of these children. This is MY calling, my duty, my happy mission.”

“Propel’s strong commitment to inspiring achievement in ALL students, regardless of race or socio-economic status, resonated with me. We do not let a student’s race or socio-economic background influence their ability to achieve success. We don’t believe in excuses at Propel, we believe in excellence,” says Ernest.

According to Ernest, academics go hand-in-hand with respectful student relationships. Learning from students is one of the most precious gifts he has been given in his teaching career. “You can’t teach students if you don’t know their personal traits. We set the mood in our classrooms. I look at my student’s faces every morning to gauge their behaviors. You will be able to tell when something is wrong.” Fun also has to be a part of the agenda. “One of my students taught me a dance that they saw me struggling with at one of our dance parties. This same move is now my signature dance move...well, my only dance move,” he laughs, “I will always remember that, as I hope they will always remember me.”

Ernest Blackwell lives in Pittsburgh, PA , enjoys sports and is a member of “Steeler Nation.” His family includes 3 sisters, 1 brother and 80 Propel Scholars!


Propel is committed to finding and preparing more "Mr.B's" through our Pittsburgh Urban Teaching Corps. If you have what it takes to follow Mr. B's path and make a difference in the lives of urban youth, please visit the pghurbanteachers.org website to learn more about Propel and how you can join the ranks of professional who care enough to be Propel Proud!

Photo Caption:
"Mr. B shows us that learning is fun and that we can do things that we think we can't. I love science and the cool things that we do to learn, besides reading the book."

Martika - 4th Grade Scientist and Scholar.
Posted By: Reggie Culpepper
Friday, January 16th 2015 at 6:35PM
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