Shepherds of healing highlights Andre Ross and David
McDonald for their “Dudes with Depth Series”
Andre Ross and David McDonald together founded the Dallas based educational resource company Education PowerED. Andre Ross a native of Gary Indiana has a BS in Business with a concentration in management from New York University. David McDonald is a Dallas native and has two bachelor’s degrees. A BS in Applied Learning and Development with a concentration in Youth and Social Services and a BA in African and African Diaspora Studies and a Minor in Public Relations.
They’ve had very different experiences getting into education although they both works for Dallas Independent school district. David started in Dallas independent school district where many of the students live in poverty, he struggled through libraries without books and students who were several grades behind in there reading aptitude. Ross got hired at Teach for America and that facilitated his hire into DISD where he worked for three years before going to work for Teach for America. We talked with them about the things people and experiences that molded them into the innovative men they are today here’s what they had to say.
They both feel like the most common misconception about their line of work is that it’s a backup plan for people who didn’t make it in a field they actually wanted to work in. The truth from their point of view is that educators wear many hats and juggle many jobs (that most people find frustrating) and responsibilities for little pay. The idea that someone is an educator for the liberating opportunity of molding the minds of the next generation is often over looked.
Andre is still learning to share his gifts with others, and David discovered his gifts by realizing what he needed as student “I became extremely passionate about providing the resources needed to give students a quality education when I realized that best resource for students is having a phenomenal teacher. An embarrassing experience with a teacher in elementary school initially lead him away from education as a career and ironically 15 years later he stood in his own class room as an educator.
Describe the moment when you knew you were on the right track. How did that affirmation encourage you to keep pursuing your dreams?
ANDRE: Well, I don't know if I can say that "I made it" by my standards. However, being awarded "Teacher of the Year" by my peers following my first year in the classroom was quite the affirmation of my talent and gifts, and it pushed me to continue pursuing this career trajectory.
DAVID: Within one semester of revamping the strategy for teaching reading, students have completely changed their outlook on what it means to be a reader and student performance has also increased. I attribute the 48-point growth shown on the ACP to this modification. My students now complain that our reading class goes by too fast, they are upset when we have to cut reading time short because of a school event, and they share with me that reading has become their favorite subject because of what we have done this year. Now that I know my students will leave my classroom and continue to find joy in exploring literature beyond testing, I believe that they will be better prepared to be the global leaders that our community needs.
What have you had to do - mentally, physically, emotionally - to prepare yourself to pursue your career? What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?
ANDRE: There are many mental obstacles to pursuing a career in education. We are dedicating our lives to fixing a broken system which requires emotional resilience and grit. There were times that I disagreed with how we built community among the families, students, faculty, and staff at my placement school. One year later, my colleagues and I implemented a school and community wide culture building incentive system that completely transformed the culture and climate of our school community.
DAVID: This experience is something that you will never forget. I had a lot of leadership experiences on campus in college; I studied abroad in south Africa; I interned in the United States Congress. But the experience that has transformed my life has been my time in the classroom. It is a work that requires your heart. Seeing the challenges that students face on the daily requires that you maintain a close connection with God and consistently reminding yourself of the reasons that you came into this work. Everyday there is a new challenge, a new problem. And unfortunately, you will not always find the support that you need on your campus. The honest truth is that I haven't overcome it. It's is an ongoing battle that requires consistent effort, consistent connection with God and others who are on that same mission. and extreme perseverance.
Tell us about your inner circle (close friends, family, mentors, relationship). How does their support impact your success?
ANDRE: I am nothing without my support system. Their continuous encouragement is what propels me to continue achieving and growing.
DAVID: Family is everything. Your inner circle can either magnify your talents and allow you to reach further than your dreams or they can stifle your talent and never push you outside of where you are now. Choose friends that are adding value to your life, not negativity or drama.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned about yourself and others?
ANDRE: I've learned how much I enjoy working with like-minded, gifted individuals to create meaningful impact. In regard to others, I've learned that people need to feel appreciated and respected in order to do their best work.
DAVID: Much of my involvement at the University of Texas at Austin was centered around discussing the impact of racism, classism, and oppression on student culture and experience. I’ve led students and adults through race-based diversity training to give them a better understanding of their own personal biases and further develop their sense of identity. Within the Office of Admissions, I served as the Director if Minority Recruitment Initiatives to recruit students of color from the largest cities in Texas to seek admission into our university. Also, within this role I was tasked with serving as an advisor to the Campus Administration on the best practices to recruit Black students to the university and to better create a culture of inclusivity. One result of this relationship with administration was securing $100,000 toward creating a space for Black students to celebrate culture and history at the university. My experiences even led to serving as representative of the student voice of my university in the Fisher v. UT Supreme Court Case on Affirmative Action in College Admissions. I have become accustomed to having the difficult conversations with peers and adult about diversity and cultural competence. I said all that to say that the biggest lesson that I've learned is knowing who I am completely and understanding others through the lens of their identity.
What do you see yourself accomplishing in the next 3 years? What are you currently doing to prepare for this outcome?
ANDRE: In three years, I see Education PowerED really taking off as a national brand. We are working daily towards our launch, and I am really excited about our progress.
DAVID: We’re building Education PowerED! I see the business being the go to for everything parents, students, families and schools need for education. We are where The Culture meets Education. In 3 years we plan to have culturally relevant curriculum available in all content areas, have established our own conference for current and aspiring educators, and have built significant partnerships with other organizations, business, and people to help end educational inequity in our communities.
Can you share a secret with us that you haven’t shared anywhere else?
ANDRE: I secretly watch ratchet reality tv.
DAVID: One secret that most people don't know about me is that I am a good liar. I don't use my powers anymore, but when I was in school all the way through graduation from high school I was an excellent liar. I could produce tears with a snap of a finger and get myself out of trouble or create some story that everybody believed. And I wouldn't tell a soul.
If you had a chance to talk to your 15-year-old self, what would you say?
ANDRE: I would advise myself to try not to grow up too fast. The world where no student loans exist was the best world.
DAVID: I would have told myself to go to Howard or Morehouse! I needed support, mentorship, and community combined with the experience of being on a campus where the primary focus of the university is shaping the identity of black youth in a profound way. I love my university mainly for the experiences that it afforded me and the people that I met, but I know I would have loved to be at an HBCU.
What message do you have for a Gen Z’er hoping to pursue a similar career?
ANDRE: Get all the knowledge that you can so that you can share it with the world. The world can be your canvas to paint with your personal paint brush if you are patient, resilient, creative, and wise.
DAVID: WE NEED YOU NOW. DON'T WAIT. DON'T FEEL LIKE YOU AREN’T WORTHY. DO EVERYTHING THAT YOU HAVE DREAMED OF AND START DOING IT NOW.
DAVID AND ANDRE ARE DUDES WITH DEPTH!!
For more info about PowerED or to catch up with David and Andre:
Facebook: Young Black Educators