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Students from All Walks of Life Pursue Teaching Licensure;
Teach Toledo Cohort II to Begin in August

By Lynne Hamer, PhD
Special to
The Truth

When cohort II of Teach Toledo begins in August, students with diverse life experiences will start their journey toward earning an Ohio teaching license and so they can teach their own P-12 classrooms.  What they all bring is an enthusiasm for helping to build up their communities by teaching the children and youth in them. Two students who are just starting out in the cohort—Christopher Pettaway and Estella Sutton—exemplify the variety of life experiences found among the fourteen students already accepted for Teach Toledo’s second cohort.


Christopher Pettaway graduated in 2018 from TPS’s Morrison R. Waite High School and hopes someday to be an administrator there.

Teach Toledo is a collaboration between the University of Toledo and Toledo Public Schools to assist Toledo-area citizens become teachers by earning the Bachelor’s of Education degree required to teach in Ohio. 

Although there is no requirement that graduates of the program teach in Toledo, the fact that participants have roots in Toledo means that many of them will choose to stay in the city after graduation.

One cohort II member, Christopher Pettaway, grew up in Toledo’s North End, living just one street over from Woodward High School.  Pettaway would have graduated as a Polar Bear, but his family moved to the East Side so instead, he graduated from Morrison R. Waite High School in 2018.   Pettaway recalled high school as having its “ups and downs,” laughing that he “went in thinking it would be like [the movie] High School Musical, but it wasn’t like that at all.” Overall, however, high school “was a good experience for me.” 

It was in high school that Pettaway decided to become a teacher, in large part due to the influence of Joshua Vance, Pettaway’s counselor at Waite.  “Mr. Vance told me I should be a teacher because I have great community-mindedness.” 

Vance led by example as well.  Pettaway recalled, “Mr. Vance really inspires me. He breaks his back helping his students. He spends every second, every minute putting himself into his job.”   Pettaway had other role models as well: “Growing up, I used to look up to Dr. Durant, because he was great.” Both these mentors inspire Pettaway’s goals of first becoming a teacher and then becoming a school administrator. 

Vance was also the leader of Waite’s Young Men of Excellence, which Pettaway cited as important to his development. “Most people who grow up in urban areas, there’s a lack of mentorship. Kids grow up not knowing how to be a man, how to have manly qualities.  It shows you how conduct yourself as a man, in all situations.”  Will Pettaway be involved in YMOE when he is a teacher and administrator? “Of course, I’ll be involved in that.”

Like Pettaway, another cohort II member, Estella Sutton, lived in Toledo as a child. She attended Toledo Public Schools, participating in track, basketball, and choir as a student at Old West End Junior High in the 1980s.  When her family moved to Battle Creek, Michigan, Sutton attended high school there. But then life interrupted her school career.

Sutton was 42-years-old when she earned her GED.  At that point, she was determined not to let anything interrupt her education.  She recalled that time as hard: “I lost my car, lost my house, and had to find my kids a place to stay because I was homeless, but I didn’t let that stop me from studying for that GED.” Sutton worked for Kelloggs in Battle Creek for 15 years, and now is ready for a career change to fulfill her passion: teaching.

Estella Sutton earned her GED and worked for fifteen years before deciding to go to college be become a teacher.  

Sutton explained, “Looking at the kids and what’s going on today with school shootings is what made me decide to be a teacher.  If kids have a teacher who is caring and who prays—not with the kids during school, but about them, before school—I think a teacher can direct kids in a good way.” Sutton is inspired by her experience founding and leading a girls’ club at the junior high in Battle Creek.  The club raised money to go on trips, and in their afterschool meetings, they talked about issues that the girls faced in daily life.  Just as she was there for the girls in the club, Sutton said that as a teacher, “I want to be there for kids.”

Both Pettaway and Sutton share the goal of becoming teachers and a commitment to youth in their communities. They could pursue teaching degrees at other universities or in the University of Toledo’s regular program.  But each believes Teach Toledo, as a program specifically for citizens from the Toledo community who want to teach in urban schools, is their best choice.

Pettaway likes that the program is “going directly where I wanted to go and getting me directly to where I want to be.” Similarly, Sutton likes that Teach Toledo “focuses on helping adults become teachers. The focus is to help us graduate and guide us in the right direction.”  As adults with work responsibilities, both appreciate that classes will all be in one room in one building with easy access to parking and the bus stop.  It is also important to them that classes are always at the same time, Monday through Thursday from 4:30-7 pm. As Pettaway said, “I can still support myself financially while moving forward.”

Sutton described the choice to go back to school as part of a larger shift: “I moved everyone and everything out of my life that was negative, and now everything is positive.  I prayed and I asked God what path He wanted me to take, and this is where I’m at now.”

Asked what they would say to others considering college through Teach Toledo and a career in teaching, Pettaway said, “Don’t knock it till you try it.  Everything’s worth one good go.”  Or as Sutton admonished, “Go for it and stay focused!”

The University of Toledo’s Teach Toledo cohort II classes start on August 26, with a special orientation during the week of August 19.  There are still a few seats available.  Call or text Hamer at 419-283-8288, or visit www.utoledo.edu/education/teachtoledo if you are interested in joining.




Copyright © 2019 by [The Sojourner's Truth]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 07/11/19 13:33:31 -0400.

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