Ashley Conyers is a 5th grade special education teacher at KIPP North Carolina Public Schools in Durham.
Who inspired you to get into teaching?
My senior year of high school, we had an African American Studies elective. The teacher had just graduated from North Carolina Central University, and it was her first year teaching. She was hands-down my favorite teacher. She went above and beyond for us. She took us on field trips, she brought us lunches. I remember one day she had a really rough day with the class and I asked her, “Is it hard being a teacher?” And she said, “Hard is something that comes with the field, but I am here to make a difference.” And after that year with her, I knew I wanted to be a teacher too.
KIPP is like a family. There is a lot of grace. Toward the end of 2020 when we were virtual and the pandemic was at its peak, I ended up losing my mom. KIPP was 100% there for whatever I needed. They sent flowers, they were over-accommodating. There were times when I said, “I’m not feeling up to it today,” and another leader would hop on and teach my Zoom class. One offered to take over for the whole day. But I had been given the space I needed, so I was able to say, “Thanks, but I’ve got it from here.”
What has kept you in the classroom?
I truly feel the kids are worth it. This past year was probably the hardest since I’ve been a teacher. There are a lot of teachers leaving the field – but, if they leave, who’s going to do it? Teaching is one of those careers where you have to be in it for the heart-work. For me, the fire is still there. There’s still joy to be found, there’s still hope to be found, there’s still a lot of love needed. To my fellow teachers, I would say: do everything you can to keep that passion alive.
Who have you learned from?
A few years ago, someone had to go on maternity leave and the team asked if I could teach math. I said, “Nope, I teach ELA. Math is not my subject.” And they said, “Don’t worry – we’ll help.” Of course, I was worried! But the truth is, I’ve never felt more supported. My coach made my whole year smooth sailing. Every week, she would come on campus to check in with me in-person. Between visits, she would give me feedback, ask me about ideas, share tips for introducing a lesson. And my perseverance translated into the class. My students were all so hesitant about math. I said, “If I’m able to give my all to this, you can too.” And we did it together. Now I’ve been teaching math for two years, and I’ve loved it!