Cherish Woodard, a May 2016 Belmont social work graduate and fifth grade English Language Arts Teacher at KIPP Academy Nashville, was recently featured in an article published by KIPP:Nashville, a network of public charter schools in the Nashville area. Entitled “Paying It Forward,” Woodard’s feature details her own story — and how, as a child, she found herself experiencing homelessness due to an electrical fire. Forced to split her family up, Woodard and her relatives were dispersed all throughout Nashville.
“I went from seeing my family every day to every now and then. But the experience did give me a unique perspective on life, and it’s something I draw on while I’m in the classroom,” Woodard is quoting as saying. Relocating to East Nashville, Woodard begin building a community in the same place she now teaches. After graduating high school, Woodard went on to attend Belmont, earning a scholarship that supported her tuition.
At first, Woodard said she was interested in studying business, but when she found social work, she knew she’d discovered her calling. “Social work not only helped me better understand people in general, it helped me understand my family and our dynamics better. I use that knowledge every day with my students,” she said.
The article goes on to describe Woodard’s passion in the classroom, detailing the ways she connects with students, her commitment to their success and her engaging energy. Woodard sees her time as an educator as an opportunity to impact a child’s future. Understanding the challenges that her students are facing, she is able to create an environment where they are safe, loved and secure. “I know what it’s like to make difficult choices and sacrifice for what you want…I always say, ‘You’ve got to learn to live in the world and then change it’!”
As for her philosophy for teaching, Woodard said, “Seed planting is important. As long as the seed continues to get nurtured, it will grow. Although I may not be the one who’s able to continue nurturing the seed, I pray there will be others.”