NBC 6 continues to recognize fierce females on this Women’s History Month who are making waves.
In the midst of the pandemic and social justice movement, one local teacher has stood out. NBC 6 Anchor Sheli Muñiz introduces us to Simone Russell.
Simone Russell is a 7th grade teacher, a cultural critic, and an active member in the community who fights for social justice while fighting for her students.
When asked to describe the school year, Russel said: “I would say it’s the true definition of a learning experience. There is nothing that can prepare you for living in a pandemic, much less trying to be an educator in the middle of it and figuring out how to reach the students, how to be impactful, but also create that work-life balance and stay healthy."
In the middle of the pandemic, Russell began teaching a new grade at Pines Charter remotely.
“It is a new grade in a very different way, it’s virtual. There is no teacher prep course to prepare you for virtual school especially now with hybrid, half in-person, half at home. I’m chugging along but it has its challenges,” continued Russell.
Challenges are what push Ms. Russell and motivate her. Her family immigrated to South Florida from Jamaica.
“I just really wanted to be there for the youth in a way that no one was there for me when I was younger,” she told NBC 6.
Last summer, she really became a pivotal mentor for her students.
“When they see life-changing things happening over the summer, I’m going to discuss it and you might be asking yourself ‘how did you talk to them over the summer?’ Literally, I had former students reaching out to me,” recalled the educator.
She began navigating them on constructive ways to express their frustrations about racial injustices because she says middle school students and children as a whole deserve to know.
“Simone at 7th grade, what was she like and if that 7th grader would see you now, what would she think?” asked Sheli.
“She would be so proud, she would be so proud. Part of the reason I became an educator, it’s a quote circulating a lot on social media—"be who you needed when you were younger” and I’m trying to be that person who little Simone needed,” she told NBC 6.
Ms. Russell says it was her dad who inspired her to take part in social justice movements as a he was very active himself. It was something embedded in her from very young including learning to express herself creatively through art.