James E. Ford
James E. Ford is a man on a mission, driven by the challenges and opportunities he sees as a world history teacher at Garinger High School in Charlotte.
“I have learned that my life standpoint is to help students maximize their potential and reach their full development,” he says. “Assisting a child to realize who they are and then watching them blossom is great motivation.”
In recognition of his ability to help students think beyond the easy answer, Ford was named North Carolina’s Teacher of the Year for 2014.
“Understanding the history of African-Americans in this state and being able to contribute just another bullet point to that narrative, is an unspeakable honor,” says Ford.
It would likely gratify the man Ford credits as the greatest influence on his career: Bill Cosby.
“He was not a teacher in the traditional sense of a classroom,” says Ford. “But he found so many ways to dedicate his craft to the underlying principle of educating young people.”
Ford began his teaching career in Rockford, Illinois, moving to North Carolina in 2010. He recalls his hometown as “racially polarizing.”
“Rockford taught me that through any racial adversity, I may bend, but I am not going to break—I refuse to break,” states Ford.
He sought to impart this determination to young people he worked with in his earlier careers as a truancy intervention specialist and director of a teen center. He continues to emphasize it to his students today, wanting them to remember that each has a responsibility to leave the world better than they found it.
“None of us controls the hands we’re dealt,” he says. “But in this interdependent society, we have a human obligation to stand up for what is right and initiate the changes we want to see.”
Biography written by Carter B. Gregory