Bethany Kirkpatrick has many fond memories of her time at New Hope Academy, and as she reflects on some of the most meaningful moments, one day in Mrs. Goodwin’s second grade class stands out in her mind.
“That morning, Mrs. Goodwin announced that two kids were in charge and would be making all decisions for the day, and they were so important that the rest of the class couldn’t interact with them. At first their decisions (recess all day!) were fun, but when we realized we couldn’t participate in any activities that those two students were doing, like going to lunch, we rebelled against the arrangement. At the end of the day, Mrs. Goodwin taught us about apartheid – and we’d had that personal learning experience because she had created it for us.”
Besides learning about apartheid, Bethany learned something even bigger that day. “At that age, I realized just how powerful a teacher could be. How a teacher teaches is sometimes more important than what they teach.”
After graduating New Hope Academy, then Battle Ground Academy as salutatorian, Bethany attended Davidson College on a scholarship. There, the spark she experienced in Mrs. Goodwin’s classroom became a beacon. She wrote her undergraduate thesis about the experience of black teachers during school desegregation in Charlotte, and she ran a mentorship program at West Charlotte High School, the only surviving historically black high school. “West Charlotte is a lot like New Hope,” she says. “Its students come to school with few resources, but the school takes so much pride in them, in their backgrounds, and in their futures.”
Upon receiving her degree at Davidson, Bethany committed to working for Teach for America, the national organization whose vision rings true for this New Hope Academy graduate. “Teach for America works to close gaps for students who are getting an inequitable education based on factors way out of their control. It tries to provide the same opportunities to low-income students that their peers from different backgrounds can already access.”
Bethany currently teaches eighth grade English at Rocky Mount Prep, a Title I and majority-minority charter school in Rocky Mount, NC. “New Hope showed me that teachers are incredibly powerful. Their impact cannot be overstated. All kids deserve the best, and they often don’t get that because of their circumstances. New Hope bypasses that reality.”
She goes on to note that what she learned at New Hope Academy – and what she now teaches – involves much more than just taking notes and passing tests. “Teaching English gives me so many opportunities to have real conversations with my students. For example, our class reading of the book The Hate U Give led us to broader discussions about my students’ life experiences, as simple as having an overprotective big brother or as heavy as police violence and gang violence.”
“I carry New Hope with me every day. It’s a truly diverse school; as someone who has studied schools, I can tell you how rare that is. The quality of education that every student gets, no matter who they are, is unbelievable. The experience of being seen, supported, believed in, and loved – I hope my students feel that when they walk into my classroom too. Thank you, Mrs. Goodwin!”