posted August 27, 2018 - written by Molly Rutter, SOE Graduate Assistant
Adapted from original interview: Making Black History Today: Ebony Green, Elmwood Village Charter School, Buffalo
“Through education, law and business, I impact my community through multiple facets, which helps so many people. For these reasons alone are why I love being an educator, it serves as the vehicle to promote positive change in the lives of others in variant capacities.”
From Law to Education
Ebony Green left her hometown of Columbia, South Carolina, for a bold change in careers. “I moved to Buffalo exactly two years ago, not knowing a soul, but feeling deeply this was exactly where I was supposed to be,” she said. “I felt a sense of purpose in moving here. This was part of me cultivating my life’s mission. I had accomplished my goals in law and in business, and now it was time to focus on education.”
Green’s professional path was greatly influenced by the tragedy she experienced at a young age.
“I was six years old when my grandmother was murdered. Twenty-five years later, her murder has never been solved. It took a huge toll on my family. However, the loss inspired my decision to attend law school, and eventually to do the work I am doing.”
Green has viewed her career change as an opportunity to expand her skillset and influence.
“People always ask me, why go from law to education? I know they are thinking about the money. The answer is simple; it's not a change, but an expansion. Now, I am able to blend my legal background through my educational policy work, while inspiring students daily that tragedy or skin color doesn't have to be a place of transgression.”
A Sense of Community at Buffalo State
Green believes her education Buffalo State developed her personally and academically by giving her the opportunity to gain tangible experience in the community. “Buffalo State promotes educators with a community focus and this is emulated through the program with job placement, volunteering and even the campus daycare facility,” she said.
Green says that her Education 501 course, Seminar for the Reflective Teacher, taught by Dr. Hibajene Shandomo, associate professor of elementary education and reading, brought out the importance of education from a global view. “As an educator, you are likely to encounter students with different backgrounds and beliefs; however, you must treat each student the same and strive to learn their differences in order to educate all students to the best of your ability,” she said.
Green also benefited from the classroom strategies she learned from Dr. Sherri Weber, assistant professor of elementary education and reading. “I enjoyed her courses because I walked away with the most palpable application for the classroom,” she said.
Furthermore, Green enjoyed taking Theory and Research in Social Studies Instruction with Professor Tiffany M. Nyachae, lecturer in the elementary education and reading department. “Nyachae taught me to think of different ways to approach all learners and to keep it fun!”
While Green appreciates all the professors she had at Buffalo State, it was her advisor, Dr. David Henry, associate professor in elementary education and reading, who inspired her the most. “When I was initially deciding to expand my career from law to education, Dr. Henry was the first person I connected with from the graduate school,” she said.
“Dr. Henry promoted in his kindness to me what I feel all educators from Buffalo State walk away with: a sense of community. Education is essential; however, we all should cause positive change by helping all people who are in reach. Dr. Henry still checks in to see how my matriculation is going in my new career. This is the Buffalo State experience.”
Making Connections in the Classroom
Growing up in South Carolina, Green felt fortunate to see educators who looked like her in the school setting.
“Having a Black teacher in the classroom is so important,” she said, “We do need more teachers of color, especially when there is a representative group of African American students in the school. I still have a relationship with my first grade teacher Mrs. King, a Black woman, who greatly impacted my life by telling me I was a “King's kid,” and could be whatever I wanted. Unfortunately, it’s not like that everywhere, but I try to be that visual for all students.”
Green understands how impactful it can be - both personally and academically - for students to connect with their teachers through a shared racial identity.
“You never know how a simple conversation is changing the life of another. Recently, I had a conversation with a little girl in first grade in our other school location. She was having a down moment, so I was encouraging her – it was just a regular conversation I would have with any student. The next day I ran into her mother and we were talking and she said her daughter talked all night about the conversation we had, and she kept repeating, “Mom, her skin is just like mine. I've never had a teacher who looked like me.”
Turning Tragedy Into Triumph
Green continues to turn the tragedy of her grandmother’s murder into triumph by achieving her academic and professional dreams. As a fifth grade teacher at Elmwood Village Charter School (EVCS), she helps Buffalo school children achieve success both inside and outside the classroom.
“I love the work EVCS is doing. Their numbers speak well in terms of standardized testing. Outside of the academics, they advocate for students to be active in the community, a responsive classroom, and they handle the public respectfully. This social awareness in education began with my Buffalo State experience and continues today in my current educational role.”
While a student, Green was involved in Alpha Kappa Alpha, Sorority, Inc., which she continues to actively participate in today. Her involvement with the sorority has instilled in her a desire to provide service to all mankind, through her roles in education, law and business. “My sorority is active in the community and promotes education through community service, which is one of my primary targets as an educator,” she said.
Green also recently began a Junior Educational Advocacy group at her grandmother’s school that allows middle school students to explore policy, education and law in a tangible form.
“The reality that I am an African-American woman affects this course. It is not a negative for me but a place of pride. In my family, community, and rich Black history, I have had so many great individuals pave the way and demonstrate what great success is in my community. I have learned through those who have paved a way before me, it isn’t about “titles,” but how you perform in life's tests - meaning, never forget who you are, where you came from and always help your community… I am doing Ebony the best way that I know how to, while helping as many people as I can along the way, as so many did before me.”
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