Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018
With a smile that can put anyone at ease, Marc Pierre truly knows the value of being seen, known, and validated as a student. As an alum of the English Education program, Marc is now using his Master of Arts to impact the lives of his students at Manhattan’s Vanguard High School. He is also collaborating with several colleagues to create a culturally relevant educational podcast for teachers everywhere.
When asked how he ended up at TC, Marc thought for a moment and then declared, “I remember vividly those moments in high school that were transformative for me in becoming who I am today. It was almost like a calling. It’s not often you hear people leaving high school who say they want to be a teacher, very rarely. But I became an English major in college. Luckily, University of Buffalo didn’t provide a teacher’s certification, so I had to get my masters degree. That’s how I ended up at TC.”
Marc could have chosen from many different graduate schools, but he chose TC. When counting the costs of attending, Marc talked with his stepfather, who pointed out, “Who says no to the best? These people who are giving you advice to go elsewhere, did they ever get the opportunity to turn down TC? So why would you? Why turn down the best?” Marc admits that earning his masters did have its struggles, but “I wouldn’t change it for the world. I think it was well worth it. There’s a certain kind of power and prestige that Columbia carries in its name, and it’s valuable. I like to call it the mecca of education.”
Not only did Marc graduate with a masters in English education, he also met people who would shape the trajectory of his life. Smiling in reminiscence, Marc affirms, “I met so many great people there. I met people who I almost consider family now. I really vibe with them and they keep me abreast with the pedagogy and the research that’s out there.”
There were a few professors that truly showed Marc what it meant to be seen, known, and validated. In particular, he speaks of Dr. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz and Dr. Christopher Emdin with a deep respect and appreciation. Of Dr. Sealy-Ruiz, Marc explains, “She would hold these racial literacy workshops on campus, so eventually I registered and went to one. And literally, when I met her it was like this overwhelming emotion because it was the first time I felt like I connected with a faculty member there who saw me and really validated my experiences. I remember that feeling of feeling valued, almost loved, by Yolanda the first day I met her. And from then on, she’s been there to support me at times when I’ve doubted myself at the institution. She affirmed me and really told me I mattered and I belonged there. She told me, ‘You matter just as much as anyone else at this institution and you have what it takes.’”
In addition to the support and love Marc received from Dr. Sealy-Ruiz, he also talks about the lasting friendship he now has with Dr. Christopher Emdin, a man quite respected in the academic community. “When I think of my alumni experience at TC I think of Yolanda and Christopher Emdin. I really feel like I could be my authentic self with them.” Having done some research when applying to TC, Marc had hoped to work with both Dr. Sealy-Ruiz and Dr. Emdin and, to his great appreciation, was able to fulfill that intention.
Authenticity is something Marc highly values. “I feel like too often we’re expected to be something we’re not,” Marc explains with earnestness in his gaze. “So that’s what I think of when I think of my experience at TC. First and foremost being seen and validated by these two tenured professors who just saw me and validated my experience, providing a space to talk and to puzzle through some of the problems I was dealing with, not only academically but socially and emotionally as well.”
Throughout his undergraduate career, Marc felt supported by the various organizations on his undergraduate campus, despite being in the minority. After coming to New York City and TC, however, Marc found his perspective being challenged. “I was at TC when Michael Brown was left dead in the street for 4.5 hours and I had colleagues who were upset that people were protesting on bridges and stuff like that because it was causing an inconvenience. I had to deal with those things as a minority in my classes.”
Marc saw the potential growth he could elicit from this tough situation. “I realize that my position at TC was, yes, to get this education that has set me up to be where I am today, but also to challenge my other colleagues in what it means to teach other students of color. Because I was the minority in the classroom, I was able to check some of them and ask them to interrogate their own biases.”
Marc’s desire to support and help educate those who may be working with students of color has inspired him to collaborate with two colleagues from TC to produce a podcast that recently went live. “The population of Black male educators is extremely small, like two percent, and it’s extremely powerful when we create a space for conversation. One of the podcast collaborators is a professor at Stenton Hall, one is working for the Department of Education, and I’m a tenth-grade teacher. We have conversations around what it looks like to have a black man in the classroom and the power and dynamics involved in that.”
The podcast is called "Three Educated Brothas," on the web at 3educatedbrothas.com, and on Instagram @3educatedbrothas. The three men “hope to have a deep impact, with listeners of all races, genders, and backgrounds. I think too often teachers are working in silos or don’t have much support, especially teachers of color who are often seen as disciplinarians and not respected as pedagogues.”
As Marc was changed by his relationships with professors like Dr. Sealy-Ruiz and Dr. Emdin, so does he want to change others. “We’re trying to call people into the conversation. The podcast is not just for teachers of color, but it speaks of all things educational. If you’re a teacher, we’d like for you to listen.”
This podcast is Marc’s passion, one that complements his love for both his job and his students. “I love what I do because it provides a space for students to learn, to feel the rigor, to fail and succeed comfortably, and to be seen for who they are. And that’s my goal when I come into work. To make students feel valued when they come into this place. I want everyone to see and feel this love that I experienced. And I want the podcast to be like that. I want everyone whose ears are listening, or whoever is reading this article, to be like man, this guy loves what he does; I want to go see him and talk to him, get some ideas and hash things out.“
Marc’s journey has been characterized by struggles and growth, but one only needs to see the joy and determination in his eyes to know that the impact he’s already made is just getting bigger. His time at Teachers College was a springboard for his other endeavors, all of which seek to bring support, validation, and love to students and teachers alike.