First year DeKalb teacher: Valedictorian to financial analyst to what really mattered: Teaching math

The AJC first wrote about Genetta Reeves when she was the first black valedictorian at Jonesboro High School with a scholarship to Howard University in Washington. She lived up to that early promise, graduating Howard in 2013 with a degree in mathematics and working as a financial analyst.

Still, something was missing in her life, a sense of making a difference in the world. Reeves had always tutored kids and realized she belonged in classroom. On Monday, Reeves gets that chance. It will be her first day as a math teacher at DeKalb’s Cedar Grove High school after earning a master’s degree in teaching and working under a master teacher through a Woodrow Wilson National Teaching Fellowship.

I urge you to watch this video interview that AJC multimedia journalist Erica Hernandez and I did with Reeves this week. You will be impressed and reassured about the future of education.



Reader Comments 0


I am really surprised that dsw2contributor didn't offer negative commentary on this inspirational piece.  Thanks to young ladies like this in choosing teaching as a profession and ignoring the rhetoric from outside forces.


@FredinDeKalb  At Fred's request, I'll comment on how Dekalb Recruits and Retains new teachers.

Recruitment:  Ms. Reeves is atypical of the teachers we're recruiting.   We hire far more teachers who had C averages in their 4-year education degree program than we do teachers who have completed masters and national teaching fellowships.  This is why you see so much more emphasis on sorority memberships instead of GPAs and academics.

Retention: Far too many teachers quit the profession after just a few years.  Research says 20% of new teachers end up exiting teaching after five or fewer years.  Maureen frequently writes about this problem; here are her posts tagged with "teacher retention":

Gwinnett and APS try to retain new teachers with their district-wide training and mentoring programs. Dekalb does not do anything like that; instead we take their preparation time away from them so "Out of Steam Green" can hold a pep rally, we buy billboards and air television commercials and we also print up all sorts of flyers and posters with Out of Steam's picture on them.

Perhaps Out of Steam's gimmicks will be more effective at retaining teachers than the training and mentoring that Gwinett and APS do -- we'll know in a few years.  Of course, Out of Steam will be long gone by then.


The words of teacher Genetta Reeves, from the video, above:

"When passion meets purpose, . . . my quality of life has increased immensely."

"I cannot live my life based on how much money I am going to make. I need to be happy in what I'm doing and in my profession."

"I really do care."


Genetta Reeves is a person who was born to be a teacher.  Teaching, and love for it, is as much a gift or a calling as it is a skill.

The business mind will never really understand the view of life that motivates teachers.  It has never been money.  It has always been answering that question of "Why are we here?"  Finding your gift, if that is teaching, and going for it with all that is in you, the need to serve and the need to see life flourish, not only with plants but with human beings.

Let us, as we appreciate the gifts that teachers have to offer society, acknowledge that English, history, and the arts are equal in value to science and math.  All excellent teachers will probe the question of WHY with their students in their particular disciplines.  English, history, and the arts build the understanding of human nature in depth.  The world needs that understanding as much as it needs how to build rockets and bridges.  We need more bridges to understanding ourselves and others throughout the planet.

Miss Reeves will be an outstanding math teacher and she will affect positively the lives of thousands of students in the course of her career, as well as the families of those students, and she will be happy and blessed in her chosen profession, as I was.

Dawn Garrison
Dawn Garrison

The convocation was inspiring, inspirational and I am so excited and ready to teach.