Breaking the Mold
Malcolm Nelson knows he is more than just a teacher to the students at St. Therese Academy. He is also a role model.
“Year after year, schools are becoming more diverse than their predominantly Caucasian teaching staff. It is important that people see someone in a leadership position who reflects them if they want to truly believe that they have a chance at success as well,” said Malcolm. “If all you ever see are people that don’t look like you, it can be hard to conceptualize yourself in that role.”
As a Black man who has been in education for more than eight years, Malcolm knows his students don’t see many teachers like him. “As a Black male in Catholic education, my role is extremely important. Especially in America, where people of color on TV are majority shown in sports, it can pigeon-hole a young Black student into believing their only chance at success is in sports,” Malcolm said. “Not only am I one of the only males many of my young men see, but I am the only Black male they will see in their whole educational career.”
Malcolm began his tenure as an educator working in before- and after-school programs. Next, he became a P.E. teacher and then a T.A. in a 5th grade classroom before teaching 5th grade. He made one more move to middle school math before joining the administration at St. Therese as the director of student activities and community engagement, achieving his dream of becoming a Catholic school administrator.
“Oddly enough, I knew at the age of 10 that I wanted to be an educator. I believe my earliest desire to be an educator stems from being the youngest of six children. Never having anyone below me on the totem pole made me wish I could be a mentor to someone else,” Malcolm said. “More specifically, I had my goal set on teaching and becoming an administrator at St. Therese. I am blessed to say that I am achieving my professional goals.”
Throughout his professional career, Malcolm has partnered with the Fulcrum Foundation to become a GRACE (Guiding Regionally, Advancing Catholic Education) teacher-leader and participate in the Leadership Academy. Malcolm recently graduated from the University of Notre Dame’s Mary Ann Remick program, achieving his Master of School Administration.
Even though it is the career he has always wanted, being an educator is not without challenges. “As an administrator, I feel stress about the future of Catholic education and people of color,” Malcolm said. “I have worked multiple jobs every year to simply pay bills. We will not keep many teachers in education if they can’t pay their bills. Just imagine how free an educator’s brain could be to focus on their learners if they weren’t stressed about rent and the evening job they are heading to after school.”
But the good moments still manage to shine through. “My favorite part of being an educator is the in-between moments,” Malcolm explained. “The moments that happen outside of the book, where we as a group have grown to know each other well and I can make an impact on the students’ day-to-day social lives.”
“Of course, I want the students to learn a lot and become smarter than me,” Malcolm continued. “More importantly, I want St. Therese to turn out good, moral humans who know what the real world will be like when they leave this small bubble and know how to navigate themselves through it.”