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More Divine Nine Members Stepping Up to Teach in NJ

Earlier this year, we featured three teachers in New Jersey who have built upon their experience in fraternities and sororities in the Divine Nine to continue to serve young minds. The “Divine Nine” – the nine historically African-American Greek organizations of the National Pan-Hellenic Council (“NPHC”) – have been fostering a mission of service, philanthropy, and academic excellence with men and women of color for nearly 90 years.

The Divine Nine continues to produce incredible contributors to the education field here in New Jersey. We spoke with two more Divine Nine members about how they’ve taken their experiences in Greek life and applied the lessons they’ve learned to their careers as educators. Read on for stories of more “divine” leaders!

Divine 9 Steps Up to Teach
Tramar Beaman and Shana Tulloch-Ward 

Tramar Beaman

Kappa Alpha Psi

Please tell me a little bit about your Greek experience.

It’s interesting, I didn’t even know about Greek life coming out of high school. I was at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia playing basketball, but it wasn’t a happy situation for me or my family. I had been thinking about going down South, so I transferred to North Carolina Central University, a historically black college. Greek life is more well known down there. When I went down, it was my senior year in college. I did my research on all of the fraternities, set my mind on Kappa Alpha Psi and was selected and subsequently initiated. It was a good experience being a part of another organization outside of basketball. All my life it had been basketball. Being part of the brotherhood, it was another thing that I could accomplish and say I was a part of. The experience taught me a lot more patience, which I didn’t have a lot of prior to becoming a Kappa. That’s been really important now that I’m teaching, and I owe a lot of that to being a part of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc.

Did your Greek experience guide you towards teaching in any way?

I wouldn’t say it guided me. My father has been in the school system all his life. When I was growing up he told me I would be a gym teacher and I would laugh at him. I thought I was going to play in the NBA or overseas. In Kappa Alpha Psi we did a service program where we went to different schools and talked to different kids which was great, but teaching really stemmed from my father.

Why did you choose to be a teacher?

When I graduated, I started substituting in an urban area in Atlantic City where I teach now. I never thought I would teach long-term; I just thought I would do it to make money while I was off. I started developing a love for the kids and the kids started loving me. Being a young African-American male teacher, they liked that I could relate to them and they needed that. My passion wasn’t teaching, but I love helping kids so much that I wanted to teach. Being in an inner city school, the kids need role models like myself.

How did your experience at Rutgers Alternate Route help prepare you for teaching?

When I started working in schools, I was an aide for two years, got my substitute certification, and unfortunately got laid off. I lived in Williamstown and started substituting at home again. I wanted to teach full-time and got connected with someone at Leap Academy in Camden. There’s a mentorship program there, too – I didn’t know it was a whole program. I thought it was something I just had to do, but I realized everything I learned at Rutgers Alternate Route helped me with my teaching that year. 

During the program, I wasn’t sure if I could finish but Heather (Ngoma) and my instructor Dr. Lewis told me I would be a great teacher. I never thought I would be a good teacher because I didn’t go to school for that, but they helped me realize I could be a positive influence for children. I didn’t do it for me; it’s for the children–to be able to pass on what I had learned as a child. The program humbled me because I realized I had to do the work to get the certification to teach. I appreciate everything the program did for me.

What and where do you currently teach?

I teach Health and Phys Ed at New York Avenue Elementary School in Atlantic City, NJ. It’s crazy because some people think it’s the worst school in Atlantic City, but I think it’s one of the best schools because you have kids who are really intelligent and bright and other kids who really need a positive influence in their life. I want to be that person who those kids go home and say that they want to be like. 

Any advice for people pursuing a teaching career?

Don’t rule it out. You never know, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a basketball player. Teaching is a great career to have. You get weekends and summers off, not all jobs are like that. You interact with all types of kids. The kids bring me joy. Some days are tough, but I don’t stress over work. I’m glad that I was able to get into this career path. 

Shana Tulloch-Ward 

Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Incorporated

Please tell me a little bit about your Greek experience.

I attended William Paterson University. During the years I attended there, we had five of the Divine 9 members active on campus, as well as over ten other sororities and fraternity organizations. The Zetas were very active on campus organizing different health and awareness workshops, assisting with move-in day, and volunteering with other organizations. During common hour (lunch times), they would hold bake sales and other fun activities to get commuters excited with school spirit. I loved their drive and academic success that it drove me to become a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Incorporated through a Graduate Chapter called Rho Tau Zeta, Fall of 2007.

Did this experience guide you towards teaching in any way?

I knew that I wanted to become a teacher since I was a young child, so my exposure to Greek life started my freshman year in college. Growing up in a Carribbean household, Greek life was considered a cult. Greek life did not help aid my decision to become a teacher, but it did get me involved with community service projects within my community in Paterson NJ.

Why did you choose to be a teacher?

I chose to become a teacher because my mother was a teacher. I always had a love for assisting my peers with their school work, and it became second nature to make this my profession. I used to play "school" with my childhood friends and I was always the "teacher" when we played. I was also in a club called Paterson Teachers 4 Tomorrow which helped aid my decision in majoring in English and receiving my Bachelor’s in Education. We had required study sessions every week, check-ins with our counselors monthly, and community services at neighboring schools with younger students. While in school, I was a substitute teacher, then evolved to a teacher's assistant for three years,  and then finally getting my first teaching job in Newark Public Schools at Malcolm X Shabazz High School. All in all, the process that God took me on to become a teacher has taught me patience and perseverance.

What and where do you currently teach?

Currently, I teach at Marion P. Thomas Charter School in Newark, NJ. I am a Special Education Teacher servicing scholars in grades 2-5 in a self-contained classroom. I teach Math, ELA, and Life Skills to my scholars. Within this village, there are Zetas, Aka's, Deltas, Omegas, SGRos, and Alphas. We all love what we do! Teaching is a selfless profession that requires patience and the ability to wear multiple hats.

The messages of brotherhood/sisterhood, excellence, and service continue to drive members of the Divine Nine, and bringing these lessons to the classroom can be an excellent career fit for many graduates. If you’d like to join these leaders in an educational career, check out our June list of teaching jobs in K-6 and Humanities and Grades 7-12, STEM, ELL, Special Ed, and Leadership positions. Also, be sure to follow @RutgersAltRoute on Twitter for the latest in teaching tips and news!

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Heather Ngoma

Heather Ngoma has over 20 years experience collaborating with educators across New Jersey to drive education innovation. She currently serves as the Director of Rutgers University's Alternate Route Teacher Training Program at the Center for Effective School Practices, a program which helps career changers, recent college graduates and other aspiring education professionals become licensed teachers in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter @heatherngoma.