An Avid Learner: Diron Ford | Teachers College Columbia University

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An Avid Learner: Diron Ford


Diron Ford participated in the program in 1991, as a rising senior education major at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina. In a recent conversation, he described three benefits:  “One, the opportunity to study at Teachers College – it doesn’t get any better than that. It made me passionate about education and intellectual development.

“Two was the network of friends and advisers I was able to connect with that summer, my fellow students, and connecting with folks like Dr. Goodwin and others – real change agents in education.

“Three was having the opportunity to immerse myself in what it means to be an educator through [the courses we took], through visiting New York City schools, through observing good teaching, and learning what’s best for kids. It fueled my passion in wanting to make education my career. It sealed the deal.”

Ford, now 45, says his life might have turned out very differently, had he not had a gym teacher in middle school, whom he remembers simply as Coach Klein. “I wasn’t the best student, the most well behaved student at the time, but he saw something in me.” With Klein’s encouragement, Ford started playing basketball and football, and “all these different games” in gym class. As Ford tells it now, Klein said, “‘this kid is really athletic; he’s just got to do his work.’ He put me on a path to do the right things.”

Ford took Coach Klein’s advice to heart and applied himself, graduating from high school in Goose Creek, South Carolina, in 1988 and heading to university on a full basketball scholarship. At first, he wanted to major in business, but that wasn’t a good fit. “I was a marketing major for a day,” he laughs, but very quickly switched to sociology. “I really liked the concept of the community and working with people.” From there, it was a short leap to social studies education. “In my junior year, I fell in love with teaching.”

“It fueled my passion in wanting to make education my career. It sealed the deal.”
— Diron Ford

Spurred on by his summer at Teachers College, Ford graduated from college in 1993 and launched a career in education that is going strong after more than 20 years. He started out teaching high school history and coaching in Newport News, Virginia, then went on to teaching stints in Isle of Wight County, Virginia, where he got involved with Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID), a nationwide professional development program for teachers to improve college readiness for children; and later in Norfolk, Virginia.

Ford took a break from teaching to become regional director for AVID, first in Norfolk and then in Atlanta, Georgia. “I missed the classroom,” he recalls, so he went back to teaching, first in Georgia and then returning to Newport News, where he became Assistant Principal of Operations at Denbigh High School. Last fall he returned to Heritage High School, where he had taught earlier in his career, as Assistant Principal of Operations, to “help with the culture, environment, and operations of the school,” he says.          

As busy as he is, Ford hasn’t let up on his own academic development. He holds a master’s degree in guidance and counseling from Norfolk State University and an education specialist master’s degree from Cambridge College, Massachusetts. He is working toward a doctorate in education leadership through Argosy University with a goal to become a principal.

Ford is also involved in professional development of teachers in Newport News. “I am always formally and informally working with teachers, particularly African-American male teachers,” for whom he is helping to form a mentoring program – work that has been important to him since he was a Summer Scholar at Teachers College in 1991. “It’s being recognized that our world is diverse, that students need to be exposed to diversity, that students can see themselves” growing up to be like teachers who look like them.

In April 2015, Ford wrote to Lin Goodwin, describing his work in providing professional development and support to new and aspiring teachers – in other words, carrying on the work of Goodwin’s Summer Scholars Program. His description of his mentoring work reads straight from TC’s playbook:  “Through research-based theory along with practical, real-life application of knowledge, those individuals and organizations collaborating with us are sure to become more solid and grounded in their chosen career paths.” – Patricia Lamiell


Published Monday, Apr 18, 2016

Diron Ford
Diron Ford with former student Aylicia Johnson at Conyers Middle School, Conyers Georgia. She is currently a sophomore at Claflin University in Orangeburg, S.C.
Diron Ford
Diron Ford, Summer Scholars program alumnus)