Baltimore City Schools Teacher of the Year for 2018 may already have a leg up on the award for 2019. LaQuisha Hall, who teaches 9th grade English at Carver Vocational-Technical High School, started a campaign that both students and teachers alike are citing as a positive way to kick off the new school year.
Hall has started the #TeamCitySchools campaign, which received the thumbs-up from Baltimore City Schools CEO Dr. Sonja Santelises. The campaign encourages everyone to be “a part of the solution,” and to declare that they are in the city schools for the long run.
Using the hashtag, #TeamCitySchools, and with a photo of herself as background, Hall posted on Twitter: “I am a proud Baltimore City Schools educator. I am proud of my scholars. I am not going anywhere. Our community, youth, and success matters. I am part of the solution.”
Santelises followed with a post on Twitter of her own. Using the same hashtag, Santelises wrote: “I am the proud Baltimore City Schools CEO. I am proud to serve our resilient students and dedicated staff. I am not going anywhere. Our future depends on how well our children are ready to lead it. I am part of the solution.”
Teachers, students and others have followed with similar messages and photos of themselves.
Jacque Hayden, an instructional leadership executive director with the city’s public schools, said she was ecstatic to work with Hall to bring positive attention to the district.
“At a time when we often hear a negative narrative about Baltimore City and the school system, Hall’s mission and focus were refreshing,” Hayden said.
The campaign was simple and began with Hall and a few others showing their pride as leaders and educators in the district, said Hayden, who moved to Baltimore in 2013. She began working for the school district in 2015.
“It was a show of unity on social media. It was to show that there are real people who are proud to live, teach, and lead in Baltimore City Public Schools,” Hayden said. “I love this city. I love my school district. I adore Ms. Hall, whose idea gave me a simple way to express my love and loyalty to a city and the school system that is now my home.”
Education specialist Shanieka Herndon says that as a district office leader and doctoral candidate, she must serve and give back to a system that’s awarded her a plethora of academic and career-based opportunities.
“Often the media portrays the dark and negative coverage that plagues our children, communities, and schools,” Herndon said. “Our mission is to highlight the positive work. We are not perfect. However, we have great students who are doing amazing things. We are graduating college and career-ready students.
“I stand by city schools, and I am forever invested in facilitating positive change in the lives of the children and families we serve.”
Hall said there were a lot of issues within the district last year. “But what I found after these incidents is that we went to work. I also found that people tend to focus on the negative things that were happening, and I said, ‘let’s change that.’ So, I started the hashtag,” said Hall, who has also created fliers with motivational words. And, it’s caught on.
“I shared it with people, and I didn’t realize how overwhelming the response was going to be,” Hall said. “I was trying to get people to repost it before the start of the school year to show the community that we’re standing together.”
Hall and others then declared August 19, 2019, as “Team City Day.” After that, many inside and outside the district began to share the hashtag on social media.
“There were a lot of people in the community and political leaders who began commenting how they were cheering for that teacher or that person [who posted under the hashtag],” Hall said. “It has been inspiring, and I’m so proud and happy to see that.”
Hall says she was inspired by Baltimore City Schools CEO Dr. Sonja Santelises. “I’m so grateful because she empowered me to keep empowering others,” Hall said of Santelises. “I appreciate that so much, and we’ve had people like Marilyn Mosby and Nick Mosby reach out and say they wanted to share this.”
“[Hall] did this in response to all of the negative rhetoric and the negative atmosphere about city schools,” Santelises said. “A lot of us weren’t feeling that way and she was feeling good about the upward trajectory of the schools. She did this as a gift and it was powerful. It was the perfect motivator.
“LaQuisha Hall just brings such a life-given frame to the work of education that really is contagious. Her positive outlook is energizing and what I love about what she’s done is that it all grew from authenticity and her experience and commitment.”