February was Black History Month, and VIPKid was excited to showcase Black educators on the platform in new ways, and honor the history, past, present, and future, of all that this month encompasses.
As a company, we have been critically evaluating practices and community spaces to uncover the inequities that exist within the VIPKid teacher community. You can learn more about this here. By bringing in external partners and surveying the community, we found that Black educators on the platform have not been included in mainstream dialogues of the VIPKid teacher community.
VIPKid is working to live our DEI commitment in practice. Our Diversity & Inclusion initiatives will not be limited to a single month or honorary holiday.
Take a look at our featured Black educators below, as well as a summary of our other Black History Month initiatives!
Teacher Wendy C is from Shaker Heights, Ohio and is currently on her 4th contract with VIPKid.
Teacher Wendy grew up in Shaker Heights, where her family balanced hard work with love, joy, and a passion for travel, values which she now shares with her 13-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son. Outside of VIPKid, Wendy plays a pivotal role in her current community of Louisville, Kentucky. Wendy is a practicing immigration attorney and an adjunct professor at the University of Louisville, and has helped countless refugee and immigrant clients find a safe haven. Wendy’s passion for improving the lives of others doesn’t stop at her day job; she also started a nonprofit in her community, the League Pro Kentucky!
Learn more about Teacher Wendy C’s nonprofit, the League Pro!
One of Wendy’s greatest passions is teaching the younger generation how to powerfully and eloquently communicate their perspectives to the world. The League Pro grew from this passion, and offers tutoring services to underserved youth in Louisville in math, reading, speech and debate. In addition to managing the League Pro, Wendy volunteers as a debate coach for both elementary and middle school, where she empowers the next generation with the strength of words. Inspired by Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman, the League Pro's next accomplishment involves bringing spoken word and poetry services to the community.
In what ways does Teacher Wendy C share her culture and background in her classroom?
Teacher Wendy’s passion for words doesn’t just inspire her nonprofit work, but also her interactions with her students abroad. Wendy loves to share stories and anecdotes with her students. They bond over their families, pets, world affairs, and of course, holidays. Wendy is always ready to share photos of her family and her experiences with students. She creates a welcoming, joyous classroom environment where everyone can authentically be themselves.
Teacher Wendy C leaves us with some words of wisdom and her current song on repeat…
“Be the light that you want to be. You can do it, you just have to keep trying! Right now, I am really inspired by the song "Unfinished" by Mandisa”
We are so inspired by Teacher Wendy C and her commitment to improving individual outcomes both inside and outside of her classroom.
Dr. Shamita was born and raised in Philadelphia, and is currently on her 8th contract with VIPKid.
Dr. Shamita grew up in inner-city Philadelphia, where too often children are viewed as statistics. Despite the societal odds stacked against her, Dr. Shamita persevered, paved a path for herself, and has made sure to bring future generations with her. She received her doctorate in organizational leadership, and her experiences and scholarship criss-cross continents. As a social scientist, a humanitarian, a polyglot, a scholar, and a writer, Dr. Shamita’s accomplishments are endless.
Tell us more about your international scholarship, work, and leadership!
Dr. Shamita’s passion for international humanitarian work started with her first archaeological tour in Sardinia, Italy as a young scholar of archeology. She explains, “As I was digging through the dirt, not only did I find artifacts of the Nuragic ancient civilization, but I found treasure within myself, and that allowed me to become the woman I am today. My journey is not about me, but my community, and giving back, especially to the next generation.”
After Dr. Shamita’s experience in Sardinia, Italy and then Nice as well as Paris, France, she went on to become a Fulbright scholar not just once, but twice, studying in Dakar, Senegal, and Paris. For her work, she has been awarded the Chivalry of Academic Palms in Education and Culture which is one of the highest honors that can be bestowed by the government of France.
Dr. Shamita’s passion for humanitarian and education work has spanned cultures and countries. As a leader, she has worked with both Save the Children and Africare. She has lived in Burkina Faso, Chad, the Central African Republic, Senegal, and Mali. Dr. Shamita built schools and hospitals, and collaborated with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR).
What is one lesson you’ve learned from your travels that you’d like to share?
Dr. Shamita reflects on her time as a principal for an international boy’s high school in Kuwait, and shares “We have to have empathy for people. Learning about other cultures and understanding your fellow humans is really important.”
In what ways do you share your experiences in the classroom?
Dr. Shamita says, “In a nutshell, when I come to VIPKid, I give my students 100% me. They love it, and keep coming back.” Dr. Shamita takes extra care and effort to have discussions with her students, engage their curiosities, and bring new perspectives by incorporating a myriad of Black historical figures in her classroom. She explains, “Our history goes back to 1619 in the United States of America, and even before that. I challenge students and it has been an eye-opening and wonderful journey for us together.”
What is one fun fact that you’d like to share?
“I love to collect spoons and coins from the places I travel!” Dr. Shamita is also working on writing her book—we can’t wait to read it!
Dr. Shamita’s international and humanitarian work has inspired us to learn, grow, and have empathy for others that are different from us. We can’t wait to see what Dr. Shamita does next!
Dr. Ri’Cha ri currently lives in South Carolina and is on her 11th contract.
Dr. Ri’Cha ri’s bright and loving energy radiates through everything she does. An educational advocate, Dr. Ri’Cha ri’s accomplishments begin with graduating high school at just 15 years old, to becoming the first in her family to attend college, and most recently receiving her PhD in education in 2019.
“I come from a family of firsts,” Dr. Ri’Cha ri says proudly, “My parents were both presidents of their unions, and they instilled within me this powerful desire to stand up for people when there is injustice.”
Dr. Ri Cha ri’s passions and zest for life have allowed her to explore her many talents, and create joy and change no matter what she does. Dr. Ri’Cha ri is a lifelong educator who has landed a record deal, modeled, launched her own fashion business, and created her own non-profit (501c3) where she taught world languages, cultural intelligence, cultural awareness, and dance!
How have your many passions influenced your life path?
“You don’t have to be just one thing,” Dr. Ri’Cha ri explains, “When I graduated high school at 15 and went straight to college on a full scholarship, I had the opportunity to go to so many places.” Dr. Ri’Cha ri has always followed her passions and explored her interests. She explains, “I was passionate about music, however, my parents encouraged me to pursue a degree with numbers. Before entering college, I never spoke above a whisper. But, I practiced and practiced singing in my free time, and I ended up with a record deal at a very young age.” Dr. Ri’Cha ri’s passion for music led her to sing across the country, from the Lincoln Theater in Washington D.C., to Carnegie Hall in New York City, where she also launched a career in acting. Dr. Ri’Cha ri has never stopped exploring, traveling, and learning!
What is a memorable experience you have that exemplifies who you are?
Dr. Ri’Cha ri reflects on her time in New York City, and notes “I have always taken the moral high ground, this is very important to me. I have never let my morals change because I live a fast paced life.” During her modeling career, Dr. Ri’Cha ri was approached by a major fast food chain to shoot a commercial for their latest burger. She remembers, “They asked me to shoot a commercial where I had to eat a burger. But I explained, I’m a vegetarian--I can’t do that! They said it was no big deal--just take a bite and then spit it out. I couldn’t do it, so I declined their offer. I ended up giving up the lead role, but stayed on as an extra. I know I did the right thing.”
How did you become a teacher with VIPKid?
After a whirlwind of experiences in New York City, Dr. Ri’Cha ri moved to South Carolina with her son and became an educator specializing in business and technology at her local school district. Dr. Ri’Cha ri says, “I experienced a difficult discriminatory situation at my school district, in which my safety and my son’s safety were threatened. My school district was not responding or handling the situation as they needed to, and I felt vulnerable. VIPKid saved my life, and I mean that." Dr. Ri’Cha ri’s experience with her non-profit that teaches cultural awareness provided her with the foundation to excel in creating joyous cross-cultural virtual classroom spaces.
What is one piece of advice you’d like to share with teachers?
Dr. Ri’Cha ri is currently facilitating courses at Cornell University on diversity, equity, and inclusion. She shares, “I was taught to love, and even though I can get in debates, I always listen to people and recognize their points of view. We all have the ability to grow and learn.”
Dr. Ri’Cha ri’s loving joy and passion for life have inspired us to continue to explore and learn.
Michelle WSN was born and raised in Virginia, and is currently on her 6th contract with VIPKid.
A mother, educator, and fitness instructor, Michelle WSN somehow manages to do it all! Originally from Virginia Beach, and now residing in North Carolina for the last 14 years, Michelle’s love for learning and joy extends beyond her virtual classroom. Dedicated to raising her family, her teaching journey first started with her own at-home daycare, and led to homeschooling her six children for the last 23 years!
In addition to being an educational role model inside and outside the classroom, Michelle is a certified Zumba and yoga instructor, has published two books—a vegetarian cookbook and a poetry book—and is an advocate for students with disabilities.
Michelle’s compassion, love, and attention to what makes every student unique has made her a gifted educator who has changed the lives of students.
Tell us more about your teaching philosophy. What has influenced you as an educator?
Michelle’s advocacy work began with her son who is now in the 10th grade. Michelle remembers, “I realize all children are different, but my son was really different.” Following her mother’s intuition, Michelle remembers, “I thought my son was on the spectrum at a very young age, but no one could confirm it. We finally received the official diagnosis when he was 7.”
After her son received his official diagnosis, Michelle was determined to help him succeed. She shares, “I started learning all about children who are on the Austistic spectrum. I started helping him in a way that worked for him. I used what he was interested in—the food section of newspapers and superheroes—and he learned to read. To this day, he still loves superheroes, and can tell you all about them."
Michelle’s son changed her outlook on instruction. She says, “My son helped me become a better teacher. I had to adapt to his learning needs and at his learning pace.” Michelle got creative. “I would tell my son, ‘Invite me to your planet.’ He has such a rich imagination, and you have to listen to him, and his colorful descriptions.” Michelle’s experience raising her son allowed her to become a fierce advocate for children with disabilities. Michelle notes, “I advocate for my son by listening to him and making space for what he has to say. You need patience. He is a deep thinker and extremely articulate. It is all about providing him with what he needs.”
What has your own educational journey been like?
Michelle started school in Virginia, and graduated from Guilford College in North Carolina. She reflects, “while I was attending school, I was also raising and educating my children. It took me 10 years to graduate, but I did it!” Michelle is a role model for her children, two of which are now in college themselves, and two who have already graduated! While educating her own children and attending school, Michelle remembers, “It soon became a competition with my children in school, with who would finish first. I would say ‘You’re not going to finish before me!”
While attending college, Michelle was a mentor for other adult students and secretary of her college’s student government association. She remembers a joyous moment when she received her degree. “As I was walking across the stage, I held up my degree, leaned over and smiled. Right at that moment the photographer snapped a picture. Soon, I found myself on the brochures for my college, and all over my college’s bulletin boards!”
What is your advice for other educators?
Michelle shares her words of wisdom for other educators: “Be humble and stay grounded. You should have an open mind and be teachable. There is always a lesson to learn. I am always learning from my students, too!”
Michelle’s educational journey has empowered us to put our best selves forward, and tackle life’s obstacles as challenges to overcome and lessons to learn.
If you identify as a Black teacher, or would like to nominate a Black teacher, we encourage you to fill out this nomination form to be featured in this series. We can’t wait to share these stories and to continue to share teacher stories throughout the year!