Spotlighting Eric Hale, 2021 Texas Teacher of the Year

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In my community, it was generationally underserved. You hear a lot about empathy, and I don’t necessarily like the word because in my community, it went from empathy to, I will say sympathy for the kids that look like me, and then that is a slippery slope that turns into apathy. When I was going to school, I was dealing with the apathy. 

I’ve literally heard teachers talk about me in the cafeteria and say, “He has potential but his mom’s a drug addict. His stepfather is a schizophrenic. He’s in and out of battered women’s shelters. The odds of him making it are slim to none.” Instead of nurturing and pouring more gasoline on that little glimmer of hope that I had they were content with letting it dwindle out. 

I am the chief of the “If Tribe.” If they weren’t being abused, if they had more resources, if they had better parents, they could be something. I hold that with me, and I proudly step up for that. It means so much for children of all colors who are going through poverty and through trauma that they have somebody that has those scars both emotionally and physically that went through some of those same things that they’re going through.

I understand the power of representation and not hiding from your personal truth. 

A long, long, long, long, long many years from now when I retire, I want people to say that I left a legacy of love and that I changed lives. That I literally changed lives.

When Eric Hale, the 2021 Texas Teacher of the Year, took a moment to reflect on his “why” for choosing teaching, he shared that he believes in the power of teaching because he often did not feel that power when he was growing up.

Today he makes it his mission to be a power of change for students, who like him, experience trauma in their lives outside of the walls of the school. 

Eric knows very intimately the stereotypes that can be placed on children because of their circumstances. He is marked by the experiences of his childhood and rather than hide those experiences, he realizes the power he has in being a representation of overcoming them. 

As Eric said, “I understand the power of representation and not hiding from your personal truth.”