A Sit Down With The Dope Educator, The 2021 Gap Teacher Icon From Memphis

What is the one profession that creates all the other professions?

An educator—and there’s a need for them now more than ever.

In America’s largest cities, education is unequal. Children in underserved areas don’t have access to the same resources as their peers. It’s alarming that only 1 in 13 public school students is fully prepared to enter and complete college in Memphis. 

Luckily, organizations like Teach901—and individuals like the Dope Educator, otherwise known as David Jamison—are pouring into our city. 

As a former teacher at Hickory Hill Elementary, Jamison had a passion for inspiring his students to be their most authentic selves. So much so that he memorized over 200+ unique, personalized handshakes with each of his students. This daily interaction not only showcased their individuality, but reminded scholars that they are appreciated, heard, valued. Which, sometimes, is all they need.

As schools made the strenuous shift back to in-person learning after a year of at-home instruction during the Coronavirus pandemic, Jamison made it a point to continue his daily handshakes—altering them to adhere to social distancing.

After sharing videos of these earnest interactions online, he went viral as each wholesome moment melted the hearts of many.

Good Morning America, The Kelly Clarkson Show, and BNC News were among the many media entities that invited him to make tv appearances. And soon after making national news, he was hit in the DMs by GapKids.

He was selected as the Gap 2021 Teacher of the year and was booked for a national GAP campaign, alongside his students, that ran in July 2021 and was featured in ads around the country.

“Jamison who has advocated for collective individualism aligns with Gap’s brand ethos of celebrating diverse cultures and unique change-makers across generations, leading the charge for a more inclusive, optimistic world together,” The Gap said in a statement to Forbes Magazine.

After the campaign was filmed, Gap donated hundreds of school uniforms and hoodies to Hickory Hill Elementary School students. In addition, a GapKids mural was installed on school grounds with images of Jamison and his students.

We got the chance to sit down with David Jamison to discuss the NEED for quality educators in the city of Memphis.

He recalled his childhood of not having many Black male educators, and stressed the importance of representation in the classroom.

“It’s hard to be something that you can’t see,” David says. “When I was a kid, I was always in trouble at school. I realized that part of the reason why is because I didn’t have teachers who looked like me; I didn’t have someone I could relate to.”

Experiences in early childhood can shape who a child is and who they believe they can be—and David made sure his students knew to never dim their light and to enter every room exactly as they are. 

Check out our sit-down with The Dope Educator below.

Teachers play an integral role in creating the leaders of tomorrow. If you’d like to learn more about teaching opportunities in the 901, check out Teach901, Memphis Teacher Residency, and Teach For America-Memphis.

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