Elevate students and Teacher Mentors embody passion and perseverance towards academic and professional success. They inspire us to keep going, keep moving, and to believe in something bigger. These are their stories.
Teacher Mentor Spotlight: Charles Taylor, Elevate St. Louis
When the whole world was plunged into the COVID-19 pandemic, Elevate St. Louis experienced a 40% decrease in funding and had to say goodbye to two-thirds of the Teacher Mentor team. When something like this happens, it stands to reason that the number of students in Elevate classrooms will have to decrease also.
However, Charles Taylor, an Elevate St. Louis Teacher Mentor, was unwavering: “I don’t want to drop any kids. I want our first-ever class from 2018 to experience Elevate Beyond. They deserve it.” Elevate Beyond is the final Elevate course for seniors, it is focused on planning and preparing for their future – college, trade school, military, and career prep, as well as developing a mindset for what comes next in their life. This is the class that concludes a student’s time with Elevate and sends them off into the world with the tools they need to succeed.
The 2021 school year started with 60 students in four classes, and Charles delivered the Elevate Beyond curriculum for the first time. The year started with hope and good intentions, but they didn’t factor in how far McCluer High School students’ general behavior had descended as a result of the pandemic. Multiple fights in the building happened daily and often right outside the classroom door. Not to mention a new group of 18 wild freshmen students.
Charles knew they were in over their heads. But his relentless commitment to helping his students paved the way for him to show up in the unique ways they needed.
So he held 1:1s with students who were in the most need.
He hosted Elevate St. Louis students and their friends during the midday advisory period and modified it to serve as a small group session and personal development session for boys.
He modified lesson plans to meet the needs of his students. He designed character studies for popular movies. Charles asked his students to name the Elevate character qualities and life skills they saw in each movie’s main characters and then draw parallels to their own lives and how they want to grow those character qualities and life skills in their own lives.
Charles worked closely with Special Education staff to ensure two of his seniors who were special education students received the support they needed. Both students graduated last May.
He challenged several students to seek drug counseling for their marijuana addictions and he was personally responsible for one senior student’s reduction of marijuana use. That student stayed in school, improved his grades and earned his diploma last May.
Truth be told, Charles was on the edge of burnout for much of the school year, but he refused to reduce the amount of time he invested in student relationships, knowing there was too much at stake. He did this while keeping pace with his husband and father duties at home and continuing coursework towards a masters degree.
Fast forward, and this is how the 2021-22 school year ended:
– Charles’ efforts made it possible for his first class of students from August 2018 to join the McCluer High School 2022 graduating class.
– He led the first offering of Elevate Beyond and guided his seniors through a scaled-down version of their senior project.
– He won over his freshmen class. All of them want to enroll in Elevater 1 and participate in Cross-Age mentoring during the upcoming school year.
– He has raised up a new crop of “sons” among his freshmen class who love to be in his presence.
Charles Taylor, led by his unwavering values and beliefs, and supported by the love of his wife, Coretta, gave his all to advancing his calling and craft of being a Teacher Mentor.
This is why Elevate USA is thrilled to give the Calling, Character, & Commitment Award to our Teacher Mentor of the Year: Charles Taylor. Charles, your heart for mentorship inspires us all. On behalf of the entire Elevate network: thank you for leading the way.