New Orleans – Sitting in Cadarris Rucker’s 8th grade class at Kipp Believe College Prep, you hear what sounds like an adult conversation or political experts speaking on social issues.
“They’re very much aware of what’s going on around them and the different issues and challenges that we face in this city. Empowering them with that knowledge ultimately helps them to be advocates for themselves and others,” says Cadarris Rucker.
Rucker teaches the basics of what an 8th grader needs to know, but does not shy away from tough subjects.
The lesson when our cameras went in was on Louisiana’s incarceration rate.
“Every time we learn a new thing, you understand it better. He pushes you to understand it. When you go back home you tell your parents they’re like, ‘Oh, you’re learning that?’ ‘Yeah, Mr. Rucker taught me.’ It’s just amazing that he’s teaching you something that not the average teacher will teach you,” Dasia Brunfield, a student of Rucker’s.
“He wants to see us do a lot of difference in the world. Like make a lot of difference in the world,” says Raine Morris, a student of Rucker’s.
“He goes outside the box for you. Certain teachers don’t teach like him,” says student, Kahreeh Stokes.
Mr. Rucker says he was inspired by his mother, a substitute teacher and community activist in Alabama. Now he has followed her footsteps and is bringing his students along.
“Especially as an African American teacher like there’s a certain experience and certain things that I have that I can use to inspire my students that do share my same racial identity and just continue to push them to be the change that they want to see,” says Rucker.
“For the kids to have someone like him in front of them each and every day teaching them, not just academics but teaching them life skills to be a better person in our world today,” says Monica Boudouin, principal of Kipp Believe College Prep.
“He inspired me to push myself in class. Like, to go further in life,” says Kahreeh.
Inspiring – not only because he’s just one of a few male African American teachers but also because he brings up social injustices, how to fix broken systems, and identifying problems within a community, and his message is getting through.
“I have a lot of students now that are speaking up in class. We have an SGA now, so they’re running for different positions, and I’ve also notice just students just engaging more with the content,” says Mr. Rucker.
If you were to ask Mr. Rucker about his student’s future, he sees some pretty impressive titles.
“I have the next president, I have the next mayor, I have the next activist, politician whatever the biggest advocates for change. I do believe that.”