PYSK: Annelle B. Whitt

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  • Photo by Anthony Jinson

Do you know Annelle B. Whitt? She’s the district coordinator for the MAC Program at Columbia Public Schools.

Job description
I’m responsible for the Multicultural Achievement Program for Columbia Public Schools. This program is designed to provide students with the necessary skills and support needed to achieve success academically, emotionally, and socially. It’s also designed to increase the number of underrepresented students in CPS’s most rigorous coursework. The program helps to ensure college and career readiness for students.

Professional background
After graduating from law school, I entered the insurance industry, where I spent 25 years. I started my career with an inland marine company as a claims branch manager. My intent after leaving the insurance industry was to be an executive coach; however, fate had other plans for me. I entered the education field after being a team lead for the CPS MAC Conference as a favor to a friend who was an administrator at the time. I have been the district coordinator of the MAC Program going on 10 years now. Everything I did in my career up to this point was to prepare me for what I am doing right now — this is truly my dream job.

Education
Bachelor’s degree from UCLA; JD from University of San Francisco School of Law and New College of California School of Law. »

Hometown
Deer Park in Long Island, New York.

Years lived in Columbia
19 years.

Quote you live by
“Stay in the moment.”

Favorite volunteer activity
Mentoring students. Over the past year, I have been coaching and mentoring some of our elementary Mini-MACs. I have lunch with them every other week, and I help them set personal goals for themselves.

Favorite hangout spot in Columbia
If I’m truly honest, my favorite spot to hang out is in my bed watching movies with my husband.

Why you are passionate about education
I believe education is the great equalizer. When I was in elementary school, I had a hard time with reading and calculating numbers. As a result, I had to repeat the second grade. My second teacher in the second grade taught me that the way I learned was just fine. There was nothing wrong with me. She used to tell me, “It may take you a little longer to figure it out, but once you do, you understand it as good as anyone else.” Over 40 years later, I still remember how she made me feel. She made me feel capable. Even to this day, when I am dealing with difficult projects, I hear her voice. I want to be that voice inside our students’ heads, especially those students who may question their skill set.

Why are you passionate about the MAC Scholars program
I’ve seen the success students can have when they are believed in unconditionally. I know what the power of believing in a student and helping them develop and enhance their skill sets can have — helping students discover their strengths and their individual voices can change not only their lives, but also the lives of generations that follow.

If you weren’t doing this for a living, you would . . .
I would be a professional dancer. I started taking dance lessons at the age of five. I also wanted to be a lawyer, which I felt was more practical, so I went to law school. In hindsight, I wish I would not have been so practical. I realize now that I could have done both.

What people should know about the MAC Scholars program
It’s one of the best programs in the district that supports our underrepresented students in higher education. The MAC program expands our students’ skills in time management, self-advocacy, and goal setting while also expanding their personal brand, amplifying their leadership skills, and help them navigate the college application process.

The next challenge facing the MAC program
Developing and implementing a curriculum that understands the social imperative of equity in education. There are thousands of tools available to educate our students. The challenge for education services is figuring out how to educate students to understand that they must do more than learn — they must be educated with equity in mind.

A Columbia educator you admire
Carla London, because she’s real on every level. I have learned so much from her, like how to build relationships with students, parents, and faculty. One of the most important things I’ve learned from her is having grace under pressure — she is the most even-tempered and strong person I have ever had the pleasure of working with.

Favorite recent project
I love decorating our home. I recently redecorated our living room and dining room. It was fun because I moved out of my comfort zone on some fabrics.

Your next professional goal
Complete the book I am working on, “White Folks Have Sidewalks.” As an equity trainer, I get the same question all the time: How do we use these concepts? This book will hopefully answer that question.

Biggest lesson learned in education
The commitment made by many educators is bigger than most realize.

How you want to impact the Columbia community
I want to be part of what makes Columbia a truly beloved community. I hope to make an impact by raising a community of students who are constantly building blocks of love, joy, understanding, empathy, forgiveness, and inclusion.

How you want to impact the students in the MAC Scholars program
I want our MAC scholars to have more than a dream for themselves. I want them to have a vision for their lives and know they can achieve more than what they believe they can.

Greatest strength
My commitment to the things and people I believe in.

Greatest weakness
My lack of patience.

What you do for fun
Attend my son’s basketball games, watch old movies, and interior decorate.

Family
My husband, James, and I have six kids. We have three sons: Jason, Marcus, and Jimmy, and three daughters: Cherri, Michelle, and Terosie.

Favorite restaurant in Columbia and a dish/drink you’d recommend
Addison’s. The salmon is phenomenal. For a drink, green apple martini with green olives. Don’t knock it until you try it.

Accomplishment you are most proud of
After getting married and having kids, I taught myself to type when I was in college.

Most people don’t know that you . . .
I placed in beauty pageants in my teens and early 20s.

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