Spencer Gould: Dropout to teacher

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Spencer Gould is one of eight black men who teach at Triumphant, thanks to the extra effort Helen Hawkins makes to recruit them as role models. A 1993 graduate of Morehouse College, Gould has been involved in the school since its founding. After a stint in the Marines, he returned two years ago to teach language arts and social studies.

As a young man, Gould didn’t have an easy time in school. He attended Whitney Young but did not graduate. “I was a student who screwed up,” he says. “It became clear to me very early that I was smart and I didn’t like school. Grades were just letters on a sheet of paper. I knew every grade I got and exactly why I got it.” The poor grades were due to lack of effort, he says. “Four years later, three of my best friends graduated, and I didn’t. That was my first adult learning moment.”

Gould wanted to get a GED and move on to Morehouse right away, but his mother pleaded with him to buckle down somewhere else first. A friend told him about Olive-Harvey Middle College, and he gave it a try.

“They taught me all the stuff I missed running the halls of Whitney Young. Morehouse wouldn’t have looked at me without Olive-Harvey,” he says.

Initially, he was reluctant to sign on at Triumphant, believing the middle college, with its older students, would be a better fit. But the experience at the school left him “so energized, and the kids needed so much. I was here for but three weeks, and I was hooked.”

Being an alum of the middle college helps him stay flexible to meet students’ needs, he says. He turns classroom interruptions into “teachable moments,” showing kids how to transition back to the lesson at hand. He’s also flexible with the curriculum.

“With me, nothing’s written in stone. If it takes three days to get a point across, I have no problem resetting that until the slowest student in my class can explain it,” he says. “That’s my benchmark.”

Gould says teaching is “humbling” and “a challenge. I respect it and take it very seriously. It’s one of the best blessings I’ve ever had.”