As television and friends replace home and school as the major influences on students, the African-American educator is key to fighting this tide, Baltimore County's director of minority education told a crowd assembled to honor educators last night.
Dr. Stephen Jones addressed members and guests of the Baltimore County chapter of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History who filled a banquet hall at Morgan State University as awards were presented to six county teachers and one volunteer.
In 1950, Dr. Jones said, a survey of influences on students found home placed first, followed by school, church, peers and television. In 1980, home still ranked first, but school had dropped to fourth, behind peers and television, and church was in fifth place.
By 1990, Dr. Jones said, the survey found television in first place, followed by peers, home and school, with church a more distant fifth.
But a few dozen students skipped the tube last night to stand up and cheer for the award winners -- also boosting the mood of the adult crowd.
"If it weren't for the students, I wouldn't be here," said Emil Cromwell, a special eduation teacher at Dundalk Elementary School. The former New York City social services caseworker and recent Desert Storm medical specialist told the group, "There have been some things that happened in my life -- I might not have been here. So I thought the best way was to give something back by working with the children. It's really an honor."
Zenea Nelson, of Scotts Branch Elementary School, has taught first through third grades -- and worked on projects including values committees, after-school math tutoring, a recreational reading program and public service with her class at an adult day-care center.
Cheryl Pasteur, whose teaching career was interrupted by service as an FBI agent, now teaches English at Milford Mill High School and helped start a community performing arts program for children from 5 to 18.
Also honored was Veronica Henry, now of Hillendale Elementary School and formerly of Hawthorne Elementary, who is active in book selection and student, faculty and minority affairs, and works with the Girl Scouts.
Anthony Harold, a social studies teacher at Lansdowne Middle School, had some young fans present at the banquet, some from his earlier years at Woodlawn, Golden Ring and Owings Mills. A student of African and African-American history, Mr. Harold has studied at several universities and received fellowships, including a tour in Egypt.
"I am not an educator. I was surprised at the honor," said Nilene Harris , drawing loud applause from the crowd for her numerous volunteer activities at Woodlawn Senior High School, including educational programs and after-school chaperoning.
Delores Mbah, assistant principal at Woodlawn, was honored for her work, which includes a mentor's program called Beyond the Classroom, role-model clubs designed to build children's self-esteem, and an on-time arrival program that decreased lateness by 40 percent.
It was the second awards banquet by the Julian Branch of the association, founded by historian Carter G. Woodson after his retirement from teaching in 1922 as the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History.