An Independent School • Grades 5-12

Amerra Sheckles ’14: High-quality education, resources, and opportunity

by Hallie X. ’23
photo by Ben Tankersley

July 2021

Amerra Sheckles ’14 teaches 4th grade humanities at Rocketship Legacy Prep, a public charter school in Ward 7 of southeast Washington, D.C., where the population is 91% Black. She is a resident at Urban Teachers, a Johns Hopkin University program that prepares graduate students with the necessary tools and strategies to become high-quality educators who serve the underserved. Adapting to the pandemic has required her to experiment with virtual learning and accommodations for the remote setting, but the greatest challenge for Amerra has been developing the strength and mindset to face such transitions. “Teaching is hard, and humans are naturally social creatures,” writes Amerra in an email interview, “[and] there has been a giant barrier between teachers and students this past year. When you add stress, isolation, and the realities of teaching in disenfranchised communities to those circumstances, it requires a lot of mental fortitude to make it out OK.” At the same time, some of Amerra's happiest moments also emerge from the classroom. She is proud to become someone whom the students trust and feel comfortable opening up to: “I love hearing about who is best friends with whom, or why someone hates mayonnaise, or how many steps baby brother Liam took last night.”

Looking back at her high school years, Amerra believes that her experience at Lakeside helped prepare her to thrive in institutions of higher education, but it also made her aware of her privileges and the inequality around her that are enlarged by disproportionate access to education. “I know the power that comes with high-quality education, paired with resources and opportunity,” writes Amerra. “If I am capable of working to provide any, if not all, of these to Black and Brown students, then it’s my responsibility to do so.”