Colvon Collins – Recognized by the Chicago Teachers Union for his work on the “We Still Teach” program

Colvon Collins & Katherine O'Brien

By Staff

Why did you become a teacher?
I come from a family of teachers. My mother was a cps teacher for 33 years. 

My aunt was a teacher 34+years, and another cousin that was a CPS Principal. Personally, my teaching experience began when I was 11. I started taking Karate lessons and quickly advanced through the ranks. One major requirement for promotion is logging teaching hours. So by the time I was 17 and a blackbelt; I had 6 years of teaching experience with hundreds of children, teens, adults, law enforcement, around Chicagoland.

Tell us about the “We Still Teach” program.
We Still Teach is a partnership between Chicago Teachers Union and FOX32/WPWR My50. The show was conceived and launched during the coronavirus pandemic enabling Chicago teachers to connect with students by broadcasting lessons via TV, bridging the digital divide for kids without the internet.
L-R .Colvon Collins, CTU President Stacy Davis Gates, Creator of We Still Teach Kat O’Brien Rusin, Chief of Staff .
How did you feel about being honored for your work with “We Still Teach”?
I felt thankful, and inspired to be recognized by the Chicago Teachers Union.

During the pandemic we all suffered some kind of loss.The pandemic disrupted our connectivity to one another and replaced it with confinement, and isolation. The show was a conduit that reunited students with teachers and provided a sense of hope and normality. To be recognized 2 years later and to see how the show made a difference was humbling.

To finally meet  some of the crew and cast in person was an amazing experience. A few months prior to the pandemic we were on strike.I was privileged  to meet the former President Jesse Sharkey, current President Stacy Davis Gates, Chief of Staff Jennifer Johnson, and so many others including Katherine O’Brien Rusin the Shows producer, writer, director.
I’m thankful to have had the  opportunity to work with such an amazing and talented group of people and look forward to working with them in the future.
What is your most memorable experience as an educator? 
One of my most memorable experiences happened early on in my career. I was subbing at a school on the south side of Chicago. When I arrived the children in the classroom told me 3 teachers had quit because of their inappropriate conduct.
One winter morning as the children entered, I was putting work on the board, a student said, “Mr. Collins  X has a gun !”

My back was to the class and I took a moment to assess the best way to address the situation. I turned to the class and with a stern voice told everyone to start their morning assignment. Next I approached student X and said, “give me the gun.” In the same instance I knew that was the wrong thing to say, so I corrected myself and said, ” No, don’t give me the gun, where is the gun?” I reached into the students bag and retrieved a chrome .380 caliber semi auto with 1 in the chamber and a broken safety. My heart was pounding but I kept my composure and secured the weapon. No one was hurt during the ordeal. The experience is not just  memorable because  a 6th grader had a weapon. The experience is memorable because in a few days of being with the children, a relationship of trust had been established where they trusted me  enough to tell me the moment they found out about the danger.  
How much has the education system changed since you began teaching? 
When I began teaching the educational system followed and reflected older American ideology.
The system is making advances in areas of inclusion, diversity, and  acknowledging decades of disparity among its students and families. The educational system’s scope has expanded. Chicago teachers, Chicago Teachers Union leadership, members, and supporting partners are creating spaces to ensure every teacher, parent, student, and multicultural community members have a voice in  the educational evolution.   
Katherine O’Brien Rusin, Colvon Collins, Former CTU prey Jesse Sharkey
Why is it important to have more African American men become educators?
Visual representation is 1 of many reasons. Our children are visual learners. Long before you break down an academic lesson to a student, visual learning, connection or rejection begins. We know outlook determines outcome , so it’s imperative to have representation in our system. 38.5 % of  322,000 students in CPS are African American.
 47.7% of teachers are white, 20.8% are African American and less than 4% of the district’s teachers are Black men. When our children, especially young boys are exposed to African American male teachers, it increases their overall odds of success, and survival. Balance is another relative component to visual representation. African American men  educators will strengthen connections creating clarity between students ensuring our past, present and future cultural contributions are not whitewashed, downplayed, or completely erased. 

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