Charise Richards: On the road to unconventional teaching ☆

| October 15, 2011

Brooklyn native Charise Richards has her sights set on using the world as her classroom. Leaving her college’s Atlanta campus for over a year to study abroad in the Dominican Republic and Argentina was an experience she says changed her as a person. Now at TC in the Social Studies Education program, Richards looks forward to exploring other parts of the world, and bringing her passion for history, people, and culture with her.

“I’m a history person. Always have been.” Richards knew she was a history fanatic when she started college, but was afraid to major in it because she didn’t know what she could do with it when she graduated. After settling on international relations as her undergraduate course of study, she embarked on the journey that would spark her interest in education.

What fascinated her about that experience was learning about how history played out in different parts of the world. “I went to this place in the Dominican Republic called Samaná. It’s a peninsula off the northeast and the history of that place changed my life. It’s so interconnected with US history and slaves; it goes really deep. That’s when I thought, ‘This is what I want to be doing.’”

After completing her degree in international relations, Richards was reticent to pursue her newfound interest in teaching. But the realization of her passion for education, as well as the encouragement of her professors, landed her here at TC and in a 9th grade Global Studies class and an 11th grade US History class at The High School of Fashion Industries in Manhattan.

Because she has noticed a shift in the lens through which she views American history due to her travels and experiences in other countries, Richards is faced with the challenge of imparting history to her students in an authentic and unfiltered way, while still meeting state curriculum guidelines and preparing them for the Regents.

Her favorite class in high school, Minorities’ Experience in America, was taught by one of her favorite teachers who shined a light on the history of various cultural groups in the US, breaking it down in such a way that surprised and enlightened her students. Richards envisioned her role as a Social Studies teacher to be in the same vein as this, but the reality of preparing students for standardized tests has somewhat dampened this vision, causing her to rethink the setting in which she will feel inspired to teach.

Richards doesn’t necessarily see herself in a traditional classroom, and an internship at the Smithsonian this summer awakened an interest in the possibilities of museum education, a setting in which she feels her love for music, culture, and history can come together.

In the meantime, she will continue the adventure of student teaching in New York City. No matter where she finds herself in the future or in what capacity she acts as an educator, Charise Richards is sure to be spreading her love for history to whoever she meets.