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An Interview with 2023 CSTOY Ryan Henderson

We caught up with 2023 NC Charter School Teacher of the Year Ryan Henderson to get some of his "Good News" and a very heartfelt take on Black History Month in his own words!


Name: Ryan M. Henderson

Current Organization: Sugar Creek Charter School

Current Position Title: TV Broadcasting, Journalism and Film Teacher; 2023 NC Charter School Teacher of the Year


Why do you support charter schools?

I believe it is important for parents to have a choice of where they would like their children to go to school.  For instance, if you have a certain curriculum at a certain charter school that you think would be of interest to your child, then why not?  Charters do have a certain stigma attached to them that we don’t have to follow the same rules and regulations as everyone else but that is not true.  When it comes to curriculum and what is best for the child I am all for it. 


What “good news” does your charter school bring to children and families?

At Sugar Creek we have a wonderful College and Career Readiness Program that prepares children for life after school, for when you graduate.  It is very important because the decisions that you make now while you are in high school will affect the rest of your life.  The better prepared you are, the better chances you are going to have.  So at my school in particular I am proud of the fact that we have a tremendous CCR program.


Who is someone you feel brings out the best in the/your charter community and why?

It is hard to name one person because there is such a culmination of great people who are building up the charter community.  I have had the pleasure of meeting Keegan Storrs, who was the previous Charter School Teacher of the Year; he is all the way in Roxboro and doing very impressive work for his students and school.  The people I work around at Sugar Creek are amazing, from leadership to maintenance workers.  Everyone is working for the betterment of children.  I have also had the pleasure of introducing Lee Haywood, the next Charter School Teacher of the Year from Uwharrie Charter in Asheboro.  The dynamic that she brings to the charter school community is incredible.  It is hard to pick just one. 


What is the significance of Black History Month to you and how are you celebrating?

The significance to me is very deep because I come from a family with a very rich history.  I had the opportunity to have the oldest Philadelphia woman on record to be my grandmother.  Her name was Anna Henderson.  She lived to be 114 years old, passing away in 2014.  She was born in 1900 in Georgia and later migrated to Philadelphia which is my home city.  Growing up, I had the blessing of sitting at her feet and listening to her stories as far as what she had to deal with, from picking cotton to dealing with prejudice and racism to moving all the way to Philadelphia. 


I am only four generations away from slavery, which is not something every 40-something can say.  It gives me wisdom and makes me proud that I stand on the shoulders of my ancestors.  We didn’t just come off of a slave ship and start dealing with problems.  We came from highly developed civilizations in Africa before that.  It’s about a history of a nation of people.  It’s a history of overcoming, a history of innovation and it inspires me to study who my people were before my ancestors stepped on a slave ship.  Have you ever taken a chemistry class?  the word chemistry comes from the word “Kemet” which we now know as Egypt. The earliest ancient Egyptians were migrants from Nubia. The Sciences, written language, Mathematics, Astrology, Medicine – these things come from the people of the continent of Africa.  We tend to credit the Greeks or the Romans for this knowledge, but the Greeks sat at the feet of the Africans to learn everything they know.


I make sure my children know this.  If you know where you come from and you know your history, you have a better chance at life.  Somebody has to point you in the right direction.  We have to remember who we were.  I wasn’t taught that in school and I don’t blame my teachers.  They didn’t know.  I had to re-educate myself.  When we go to celebrate Black History Month and we say the same names over and over again and put up the same posters, we are holding up examples of the same individuals - and that’s not going to give you the full scope of the African diaspora.  We are not a monolithic people.  We come from all over the place.  And when it comes to poverty – because at my school we concentrate on breaking generational poverty – that is a socioeconomic thing but I also see it as being combined with a mindset.  We have to educate the whole child. 

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