This blog post is part of our 2019 Teacher Appreciation Week celebration highlighting just a few of the teachers at public charter schools who are going above and beyond for their students. Thank you to all the teachers in the charter school movement!
Emblaze Academy Charter School’s emblem is a passionate flame. In the concrete surfaces of the Bronx, one can’t help but to admire a spark because we look to the light to inspire power and perseverance. This iconic fire is constantly energizing our school because—just as a blaze quickly engulfs and changes its state from a mere ember to a wildfire—our students are growing every second and their brilliance commands opportunities. Unfortunately, our students need only to turn on the television to hear the dark narrative about the Bronx and internalize these subliminal messages about the unpopular neighborhoods they call their homes. We teach students to lovingly be themselves whilst they fight the stereotypes every day that make them feel ashamed and/or afraid of where they come from and live. There exists a footpath at every which corner reminding our students that the place they call home is often a belittled and ridiculed place. However, the firmness of one resilient voice helps diminish all the unenthusiastic tales—that distinct voice belongs to Malcolm Wicks.
Malcolm Wicks is the physical education teacher at Emblaze Academy—and he is also our dean of school culture. He’s also a poet, spoken word artist, activist, musician, and basketball coach among his many creative designations. Malcolm brings a hip well-roundedness in educating the whole child. I have had the privilege of working with Malcolm for six years and I have literally seen him lead and excel in all his undertakings—no matter how minute or in-depth the request. No need is too small or too great at the core of community. Malcolm Wicks knows that all too well. His spoken word has helped move our young people to embrace and celebrate their backgrounds, their upbringings, and their circumstances because he tells our students every chance he gets that they are kings and queens. He helps students embrace their personal stories. Mr. Wicks often spearheads creative writing exercises (when he is not busy planning whole school incentives for the year), and he teaches our students to be open and vulnerable with each other even when it hurts to be that visible and authentic.
Malcolm is as trustworthy as they come. He is not above being sensitive and emotional around students when he is moved by their honesty and narrative. He wears his heart on his sleeve and makes it look cool to be that wholeheartedly engaged day-in and day-out. Malcolm is a lead-by-example kind of human. He knows the bravery that exists in our students and what it takes to be nimble and resilient in the ever-changing landscape of our communities. Mr. Wicks carries himself with utmost poise and pride for everything the Bronx has bestowed upon him. Malcolm has mobilized entire neighborhoods to stand up for what they believe in and face the adversities of our day and age AND everyday our students have the greatest teacher—real life lessons by Mr. Wicks.
Happy Teacher Appreciation Week, Mr. Wicks! Thank you for everything you do for our students every day.
Erienne E. Rojas is the founding director of operations for Emblaze Academy.