Educator Spotlight: Nyree Clark
California educator uses her own upbringing to empower others in their journey
This story is part of a weekly series that celebrates outstanding teachers in our Flipgrid community. Stories by Angela Tewalt.
Nyree Clark knows Southern California’s Colton Joint Unified School District well.
She’s been living in the neighborhood since she was a child.
It’s breezy now – she walks through their doors with positivity, rigor, joy and power each day – but years ago as a young girl, she likely had the same outfit on as the day before and stood in front of the mirror by herself combing her own hair before the bus picked her up from her grandmother’s apartment in a fallen neighborhood.
You wouldn’t know it, but those memories are the exact reasons she chooses to teach in that same community today. If Nyree is anything, she is a testament – a reason for hope, proof of triumph and the voice that all children deserve to hear if they choose to believe it: Anyone is capable of anything, no matter where they come from.
“For me, teaching is being that change you want to see in the world,” says Nyree, who’s been an educator in her hometown for over 20 years now. “I feel very fortunate to be able to work in the community I was raised in, because I was the underdog. And now I want other people in that same position to thrive. I just want to be an example of what you can do when you keep working hard and not let your environment dictate who you are.
“You do not have to move out of that community! Your community can build you up, and you can build up your community, too.”
Gratitude for Educators, Empathy for Students
Nyree is wrought with intrinsic motivation to do well, but her childhood teachers valued her, too.
Because it’s all she knew, Nyree’s grandmother insisted she find a job right after school and not consider college. But Nyree’s school encouraged another way.
“We didn’t have a lot of money, but my teachers had high expectations for me,” she says. “Where my grandmother couldn’t give or didn’t know all the resources I needed, I got that from my teachers. They would walk me through how to fill out applications and financial aid. They would say, ‘Take this home, tell your grandmother to sign right here,’ and then I went to college.
“And that’s why now, I can say to my kids, ‘Look, I know those situations where you’re the only one who looks like you and how intimidating that can be until you outlearn that system or learn to fit in, but I lived in those apartments, too, and I went to college!’ They have to see it. They have to see someone who looks like them do it, and that’s why I don’t leave where I am. I want my kids to see I was right where they are, and I am thriving.”
Today, Nyree helps to integrate tech for elementary educators and is also the co-founder of Equity in Action, a group of teachers who strives to build inclusive teaching communities in California. In all endeavors, one passion rings throughout: empower one another, just like her teachers did for her.
“When I was in school, I felt completely safe,” Nyree says. “I could let myself down and learn because I was safe, and I think that is the most important thing today. When your students know you care for them, and their parents know you care for them, that’s going to be all they need. Those relationships need to be strong.”
Nyree is beautifully emphatic, tenacious and brave, but most of all she believes in everyone else to be courageous, too. She is not only proud of and grateful for the helpful educators who came before her, she is extremely confident in all the great students to come.
“We have brilliant kids all over the place, and I want my students to know that it can start with them,” Nyree says. “It was so impactful to me that I had teachers who cared enough to push me. Now, I want my own students to know that they don’t need to have a million dollars to be a good community member or a good role model – you can come from anywhere and still be kind and be decent and grow where you are. No excuses! We are here to guide you always.”