On a weekly basis each Wednesday, teachers across Minnesota are nominated as “Excellent Educators.” In early February, Loretta Hall of Best Academy was nominated by a coworker. Hall was surprised February 10 in her classroom in front of her students by WCCO News cameras and crew. Best Academy staff and Hall’s students knew she would be getting honored.
Excellent Educators are teachers committed to the growth and inspired leadership of students. “It is about holding them [her students] accountable,” said Hall. “That is what I do. They call me, ‘Mrs. Tough Love,’” Hall says happily and proudly.
She has been an educator for 40 years. “I have been at the Harvest Network for a little over 19 years,” said Hall. “I teach all of our fifth graders.” Hall teaches language arts and reading.
She started out at Harvest as a first-grade teacher. However, “They felt my strengths were more with the older scholars, so they transferred me from first to fifth.”
Hall was presented with an Excellent Educator Plaque. The news crew observed the classroom and spoke with other staff members. Hall said Harvest prides itself on “college prep, life skills, and Afrocentric culture.”
Hall was born and raised in Long Island, New York. She’s currently a St. Paul resident but commutes daily to North Minneapolis for the love of her scholars. She came to Minnesota in 1972 for her education, attending Hamline University and Concordia. She is the mother to one son who is 27 and the grandmother to one granddaughter, who is turning nine years old.
What does she love about the Harvest Network? “I love that we are here on the North Side. I love Mr. Mahmoud’s and Dr. Mahmoud’s [Eric and Ella respectively] mission, to educate our scholars with the highest expectations possible so they can be competitive when they leave here.
“I like the curriculum,” she continues. “I love the fact that the kids show up ready to work. They do want to learn. They do excel, regardless of what people think…”
Harvest has a history of students going on to do great things in their lives and careers. Students also keep up with school staff. “When my son posted about my award [on Facebook], I had so many of my students come on and tell me what I had did for them while they were with me. They also talked about the memories with me.”
Regarding her philosophy of education, “I tell my students all the time, you [must] know. You [must] come ready. You [must] be academically sound. You [must] be competitive. You [must] set goals and know where you are going.
“There are no expectations that I do not give them. I set them high and I keep them high. You rise up and meet them. It is not like it is impossible. I want them to be competitive. That is my basic goal.
“That is what most of my scholars say of me from the past,” continues Hall. “They say how I accept zero excuses. How I tell them [they] can do this. It takes them a couple grade levels to realize that everything we learn here is applicable in the real world. So, that tells me that we are kind of on the right track.”
Brandi D. Phillips welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.