Fannie Smith Motley: A Chalkboard Champion of the Civil Rights Movement

m-2247_thumb[1]Many distinguished educators, both black and white, made important contributions to the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960’s. One such educator was Fannie Smith Motley. Fannie Ernestine Smith was born in 1927 in Perdue Hill, Alabama, a small town near Monroeville. As a young woman, she attended all-black Selma Baptist University from 1944-1946, where she met her future husband, D.L. Motley, a ministerial student. Fannie disrupted her education in 1949 when the couple married and had two children. Shortly after the 1954 Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Board of Education, Fannie overcame her strong fear of reprisals from the Ku Klux Klan and enrolled in previously all-white Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama. She graduated from Spring Hill with honors in 1956, the first African American to do so. This was her contribution to the Civil Rights Movement. Fannie first taught second grade at A.F. Owens School in Mobile, Alabama, but then relocated to Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1963 when her husband was given a job as the pastor of Peace Baptist Church there. In the Cincinnati public school system Fannie taught for twenty-four years, returning to school to complete the requirements for her master’s degree in guidance education from Xavier University in 1969.

Fannie’s alma mater, Spring Hill College, established a scholarship in her name to be awarded to an individual who advances diversity on campus. On May 9, 2004, Spring Hill conferred an honorary doctorate on Fannie Smith Motley in recognition of her efforts to promote diversity. She is truly a chalkboard champion.

Chalkboard Champion and Actor John Cho: His Course Is Laid In

Jeffrey MayerMany wonderful educators throughout history have been multi-talented, achieving professional successes in addition to their accomplishments as teachers, and Hollywood actor John Cho is no exception.

John is probably best known for his portrayal as a young Hikari Sulu in the 2009 and 2013 Star Trek movies, but he has also earned recognition for his roles in the Harold and Kumar films, the American Pie movies, and various television appearances. He’s set to star as part of the main cast in the upcoming TV show Sleepy Hollow.

John was born in 1972 in Seoul, South Korea. The Cho family emigrated to the United States in 1978 settled in Los Angeles, California. John graduated from Herbert Hoover High School in Glendale, California in 1990. He enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English in 1996. John then went on to teach English at Pacific Hills High School in West Hollywood, California, while simultaneously pursuing his acting career. In addition to teaching and acting, John has enjoyed some success as a musician with his band Viva La Union.

The teaching profession is fortunate to have had such a multi-talented individual as a member of its ranks. John Cho is truly a chalkboard champion.

Alan Lawrence Sitomer: A Modern Chalkboard Champion

$RMCINGVA very unique chalkboard champion is Alan Lawrence Sitomer, novelist and educator who has earned a reputation nationally for his success in engaging reluctant readers and as a motivational speaker. He was named California Teacher of the Year by the California Board of Education in 2007.

Born in 1967, Alan earned his bachelor’s degree from USC, his teaching certificate through San Diego State University, and his master’s degree from National University. He has taught English, Creative Writing, Speech & Debate, and AVID at Lynwood High School, an inner city school located in Lynwood, Los Angeles County, California.

Alan’s published novels include The Hoopster, Hip Hop High School, and Homeboyz. He has also authored Hip-Hop Poetry & the Classics, a text that is currently being used in classrooms throughout the United States to teach classic poetry through hip-hop. The approach is intended to engaged reluctant students in both poetry and academics. Other titles published by Alan are a teacher’s methodology book entitled Teaching Teens & Reaping Results: In a Wi-Fi, Hip-Hop, Where-Has-All-The-Sanityh-Gone World and The Alan Sitomer BookJam.

You can find Alan Sitomer’s books on amazon and access his website at the following link:

Braulio Alonso: A Genuine Chalkboard Hero

0002910439-01-1_06-07-2010[1]When we think about chalkboard heroes, one name that immediately comes to mind is Braulio Alonso. This distinguished educator and World War II veteran can boast of numerous accomplishments during his lifetime.

Born in Ybor City, Tampa, Florida, in 1916, the son of impoverished cigar makers, Braulio graduated as the valedictorian of his class from Hillsborough High School in 1935. He was also the valedictorian of his college class when he graduated from the University of Tampa in 1939.

Braulio began his teaching career as an instructor of physics and chemistry courses at Henry B. Plant High School in Tampa, but when World War II erupted, Braulio became part of the United States Army in 1941. He was immediately sent to officer candidate school, and later he became part of the 85th Infantry Division in North Africa. The teacher-soldier was promoted to Battery Commander for the 328th Artillery Battalion, taking an active part in the Italian campaign. He was among the first Allied soldiers to liberate Rome. By the time he was discharged from the service, Braulio had earned a Bronze Star with Cluster and a Purple Heart.

After the war, Braulio continued his career as an educator. He was named the director of Adult Education and headed an on-the-job training program for returning veterans. He also taught classes and served as a principal at several schools, including West Tampa Junior High, Jefferson High School, and C. Leon King High School.

Always intent upon improving the quality of education, Braulio became the president of his local teachers’ union, eventually becoming the president of the Florida Education Association, where he led the drive to integrate the organization. In 1967, he was elected the president of the National Education Association, the first Hispanic to hold that office. While NEA president, Braulio worked to persuade teacher organizations throughout Europe to join with NEA for an international conference to combat racism, anti-Semitism and apartheid, and served as its secretary. In 1966 he became an international figure when he was asked to mediate a dispute among teacher organizations and the Bolivian government. This was the first of many missions to mediate disputes, including efforts in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Brazil, the Ivory Coast, Kenya, and Ghana.

This remarkable chalkboard hero passed away of natural causes in 2010. He will be missed, but certainly not forgotten.

Hannah Jensen Kempfer: The Abandoned Child Who Became a Chalkboard Champion

kempfer[1]Hannah Jensen Kempfer was born on a ship in the North Sea, the daughter of a sailor and an unwed mother who was working as a stewardess. Shortly after her birth, her mother abandoned the child in an orphanage in Norway. Hannah was adopted the next year by a Norwegian family who immigrated to America in 1885. The family settled in Minnesota, where Hannah grew up in abject poverty.

When Hannah was only twelve years old, she took a train to Fergus Falls, Minnesota, where she was taken in by the family of a local milkman. There Hannah attended Fergus Falls High School, and then enrolled at Park Region Luther College, where she graduated at the age of 17. After she earned her teaching certificate, Hannah taught from 1898 to 1908 at a small rural schoolhouse. She married farmer Charles Taylor Kempfer in 1903, and although the couple never had any children of their own, they fostered eleven orphans.

In 1923, Hannah was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives, where she served from 1923 to 1930 and 1933 to 1942. She was one of four women elected to the Minnesota House following the passage of women’s suffrage. She is best known for championing the causes of children, the conservation of natural resources, and the official selection of the Showy Ladies’ Slipper as  Minnesota’s state flower.

Hannah Jensen Kempfer is remembered today as a true chalkboard champion.