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Meet James Daniels ’21: ‘I Want to Teach Because Students Deserve to Learn How to Embrace Their Identities’

This is part of a series of profiles of students who are graduating from the NC State College of Education in May 2021.

James Daniels ’21 wants to cultivate youth voices by teaching them how to embrace their identities. His involvement in the College of Education has prepared him to do just that, and he will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in middle grades English Language Arts and social studies education in May 2021.

Learn more about James Daniels

Hometown: Selma, North Carolina

Area of Study: Middle grades English Language Arts and social studies education with minors in English and creative writing

Activities (Research or Extracurricular): Multicultural Young Educators Network (MYEN) president, College of Education student ambassador, Provost’s Professional Experience Program (PEP)

Why did you choose the NC State College of Education?

I knew it was a nationally ranked college of education that would offer a great education, as well as a great support system. I also reached out to the advisors before coming here, and they made me feel very at home, as they have throughout my four years of being here.

Why did you choose your area of study?

I believe middle school is often left out of the conversation about building up strong youth minds and voices. I want to cultivate youth voices by teaching them how to wield the power of words and discover ideas from the past that relate to the present.  

What do you hope to accomplish in your field after graduation?

I hope to teach for a few years and eventually work with community organizations to support adolescents in art education, specifically creative writing.

What’s your next step? What do you have planned after graduation?

I will be teaching at East Cary Magnet Middle School.

How has the College of Education prepared you for that next step?

The College of Education has provided amazing support through classes, professors and PGUs (Professional Growth Units) that have set a strong foundation for my next steps in teaching and community organization or development.

Do you have a favorite memory from your time in the College of Education?

My favorite memory as part of the College of Education was when I, along with some of my closest friends in the College of Education student ambassadors, led a group of middle school students on a tour of campus. I talked with the middle school students about my experiences, played games with them, and got them excited about college and post-graduate work. I was able to show them how much there is to the world outside of school, while also just spending time with them and learning more about their lives. That experience really showed me I was in the right place.

Tell us about an experience you had with the College of Education that had the biggest impact on you or your career.

I had countless conversations about teaching and education with three of my mentors and favorite people alive —Tremaine Brittian, former NC State College of Education director of advising and recruitment; Iwinosa Idahor, graduate assistant in the College of Education’s Office of Undergraduate Student Success; and Lindsey Hubbard, assistant director of SAY Village. It was always amazing to have someone to go to whenever I had a question or concern. The resources the advisors and those who are connected to the College of Education provide are amazing, and it’s made me the future teacher I am today.

Why did you choose education?

I chose education because I believe in the concept of restoration — an idea that, in education, views all youth as having innate skills, talents and unique traits that make them beautiful. Unfortunately, these youth — especially middle school youth of color — are often forgotten or considered not as valuable in society. However, students have minds, hearts and ideas that can and will change the world. I want them to know they have someone who believes in them enough to support them in building their unique voice. I want them to be able to assess the world around them in order to better understand what issues plague them and the people they care about. I want students to become the people they want to be, not the image that society or the people around them want them to conform to.

I don’t teach because I want them to know “classic” literature or because I want them to remember random battles in a war they didn’t live through; I want to teach because students deserve to learn how to embrace their identities in a world that tells them this is wrong. I teach because it’s necessary. I teach because it shows love. I teach because it’s healing. I teach because it’s restoration.