Today we’d like to introduce you to Kevin Dua.
Kevin, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
“You don’t sound like you have a ‘southern accent,” is a common refrain from my students whom I taught over the years. Or — “You’re the first Black teacher I have had, ever,” is a reoccurring one that I’ve heard from current students over the past several months at Cambridge Rindge and Latin.
On both ends, they paint a picture on where I came from, and how I ended up teaching psychology and history in the morning, and planning civic engagement projects centered on identity empowerment, and world record events with a Black Student Union after school.
Alexandria, Virginia — a few miles outside of the nation’s capital, and claim to fame with the Disney sports’ film, “Remember the Titans” (centered on my high school) — is a multicultural hub that became a welcoming home for my Ghanian-immigrant parents to raise myself, brother, and sisters, for decades in a Christian household. Virginia, in general, became a learning environment, where attending the College of William and Mary as a history major played a role in enlightening me on history, primarily tied to the African-American/Black narratives in American history.
Such experiences with peers offered an outlook on the value of critical thinking, diversifying agency in the curriculum, and promoting collaborative efforts towards empathetic community building.
And then, there’s that Guinness World Record for “the largest group of people dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” event that was a part of my senior undergraduate year. Quirky and random, yes; and, also, foreshadowing how — if you provide a forum for diverse learners to engage, connect, and support each other — a strengthening among strangers can be pleasantly possible.
From that, the steps that led me into a classroom full of seniors at Cambridge, 6 years later, has been proudly shared and recognized as a blessed journey. Years of service as a mentor to fourth graders with AmeriCorps City Year Boston reaffirmed how that being a Black adult educator was influential for children (especially Black youth). Add the focus of social justice curricula in a one-year M.Ed. program at Boston College Lynch School of Education (via the Donovan Teaching Urban Scholars), and I was able to feel competent and energized to teach in Somerville Public Schools.
But the years that followed—both personally and professionally—evolved into a learning curve for me on how to foster a space for others, and myself, to bond, support, and progress together.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I have been blessed with the values—empathetic, creative, and work ethic—nurtured in me by my family: two degrees; traveling, meeting, and connecting with people nationwide on how to better cultural responsiveness within their communities; and honored with several awards, such as becoming the first African-American to become Massachusetts History Teacher of the Year in 2017.
However, acknowledging challenges along the way are still a learning process for me. Since elementary school until now, criticism towards the authenticity of my racial identity as a Black person, both professionally and personally (i.e. not Black enough, too Black, an “oreo,” a sell-out, etc.) has been consistently dispiriting.
And though I do not touch much about it, bullying and abuse that occurred as a child, still to an extent, factor in struggling to articulate self-doubt and stress.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School story. Tell us more about the business.
I teach history and psychology at Cambridge Rindge and Latin (Cambridge, MA), and am the faculty advisor for the Black Student Union here.
For five years, I taught American history at Somerville High School (Somerville, MA), where the multicultural identity of that town made it a beautiful hub for learning. The years dedicated to that school showcased young minds, of all backgrounds, willing to empower their community, engage in dialogue centered on social justice, and work towards improvement. World records were broken there; cultural fairs were held; faculty talent shows were presented, and sincerity was the norm.
As for Cambridge, the school offers a different perspective on young people eager to better themselves and peers. The resources and commitment tied to this environment allow a diverse demographic to explore avenues that challenge, resolve, celebrate, and innovate empathy and fun.
The activism that I have seen displayed by students advocating for the recruitment and retainment of more teachers of color (i.e. Black teachers), and inclusive spaces, sheds light on the thoughtfulness of this student body.
Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I think to call anything in my life “luck” would almost undermine the genuine personalized support I have been able to have over the years. There’s a quote once said by actor Denzel Washington: “Luck is when an opportunity comes along and you’re prepared for it.
Finding new homes (after being forced to move multiple times), successful health progress (after medical setbacks), academic and professional successes, creating new friendships (as hardships arises), educating willing young minds (with diverse skillsets), and finding ‘love’ in someone that provides comfort and energy — all of these offerings were readily embraced because of that early foundation of faith from my family.
I was always reminded that God never placed anything in front of me that I couldn’t handle; that my lineage is rooted in a history of African kings and queens; that choosing to be kind will always be valuable to use, spread, and embody.
Again, I wouldn’t classify anything as “luck” (good or bad) within my life; I have always encouraged to try to let faith worry about the little things; as long as I was making sure that my surroundings were doing right by me, then I would be prepared to do well, do good, and learn in between.
- Website: https://goo.gl/4nWenq
- Phone: 703-226-9139
- Email: KEVINDUA@GMAIL.COM
- Instagram: kevin_dua
- Facebook: facebook.com/kevindua
- Twitter: @kevindua
- Other: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kevindua/
Elliot Haney Photography – https://elliothaney.smugmug.com/