“There are rules wherever you go, and you’re not going to be the one making them all.” This was the first of many crucial lessons I learned from one of the most impactful educators I’ve ever encountered. This teacher was like no other; stern, yet flexible – unyielding, yet fun. She taught around the clock…and in her class, almost every situation was transformed into a teachable moment. There was always a book to read, a new word to discover, and a deep discussion to be held.
Have you ever had to critically analyze a Cosby Show episode when you were a kid? As a result of being a student under this teacher – I did, and I will never again be able to view the Saundra and Elvin jar-opening scene without thinking about the sexism and social construction lesson I received (For those of you who didn’t see the episode, Sandra opened a jar of pickles for her mother that Elvin couldn’t open; thus, embarrassing Elvin because he believed opening a jar was a man’s job.).
This teacher had a purpose and it was to cultivate budding minds into critical thinkers who understood the world and made educated choices based off research, fact, and intellect. Even though we were students nearly every minute of the day, classes weren’t always serious. They were sometimes exciting and full of the arts too. This educator made it her business to dish out beauty tips, pop culture tidbits, and fashion advice. She even taught her students the depth and beauty of Stevie Wonder’s Ribbon In the Sky and the science behind why Luther Vandross had the perfect Saturday morning cleaning soundtracks. Class was often an exploration, and I loved that. Although I did not like that class was almost always in session and never ended, the fact that I got to call my favorite teacher in the world Momma made the cons that much easier to digest.
Dr. Pamela Higgins Saulsberry began her career as a college educator 42 years ago. She became the first black professor in the Social Work Department at the University of Louisiana at Monroe where she is now the first black Director of School of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Professor of Social Work. She has impacted hundreds of students’ lives and has made significant strides in her community. She instructs parents on parenting, she guides kids dealing with behavioral issues, and demonstrates to her students how to be the most effective social worker possible.
Dr. Saulsberry’s accolades are endless, but I believe one of her most important accomplishments has been molding her children into decent, free-thinking citizens. Out of every teacher I have encountered, Dr. Saulsberry (my mother) is the one whose teachings have and will never part from my psyche and heart – and because of this, she will forever be my most inspiring educator. As I go on in life, I will never part from her teachings. I will always remember to abide by rules until I can make my own, to think beyond the surface, to purchase quality clothes so I will have them for a lifetime, and to wash my face and neck in an upward motion to avoid aiding the aging process.
Thank you for the lessons Mother. You inspire me.
To read more about Dr. Saulsberry’s journey, click here.