Our teachers are helping to rebuild one of America’s great cities from the classroom up—ensuring that all of Detroit’s students get the education they need to succeed in college and career. Meet two of our educators, Master Teacher Stephany Laboo and Principal Ricky Fountain, who serve students at Nolan Elementary-Middle School.

Stephany Laboo, Master Teacher

Nolan Elementary-Middle School, Detroit, Michigan, TeacherWhy are you passionate about teaching in Detroit?

I’ve committed myself to urban education in Detroit because of the potential that exists within each of our students. I adamantly believe that every child is entitled to a robust and fulfilling education that will prepare them for their next phase of life. I know this isn’t possible without well qualified passionate and highly motivated teachers, and each day I work to be that individual for my kids. These students have an abundance of creativity, audacity, and talents. I’m passionate about teaching in Detroit because the work I do affords amazing young minds opportunities to be acknowledged, successful, and empowered. 

How has the last year at your school empowered you to become a more impactful teacher/educator?

I feel as though the past year as been a game changer in my career. In conjunction with training from district partners and on sight coaching I feel more confident in my abilities than ever before. I work to keep a growth mindset and as such take what I can from each experience and apply it as I move forward. Working with teachers to be confident in the implementation of best practices and focusing on continuously honing my craft has made me feel energized about the work that I do each day. 

What are three words you’d want your students using in describing your classroom and why?

The three words I would want students to use when describing my classroom are Courageous, Ambitious and Considerate. I work to make my classroom an environment that speaks to the needs of the whole child. This cannot be accomplished without courage, ambition, and consideration. I strive on daily basis to reinforce the necessity of setting ambitious standards for ourselves in education and all aspects of life, then having the courage and tenacity to reach for those goals. Consideration plays an essential role in shaping the social emotional side of a person, and I seek to reinforce the power of kindness and consideration in all of our thoughts and actions.

Ricky Fountain, Principal

Ricky Fountain, Nolan Principal, Nolan Elementary-Middle School, Detroit, MichiganWhy are you passionate about leading schools in Detroit?

There is something quite endearing about leading a school in Detroit. There is an element of social justice embedded in the task, as an educator is fighting against social inequity everyday, motivating students to transcend literal and ideological boundaries, and changing lives through steady, stable and calculated educational and social effort(s). All true educators share this passion and derive great satisfaction from being a part of a much needed solution in the city that is ripe for great transformation.   

How has the last year at your school empowered you to become a more impactful teacher/educator ?

The last  year at my school has reaffirmed my undying faith that education is the linchpin of any true change in the urban community specifically and in the world in general. Working for a priority school should be an arduous experience, based on the variety of financial, social, and cultural challenges that exist. However, being in an environment that requires total focus on student progress and growth forces everyone involved to align with a greater purpose to create a space for pure student development and discovery. It’s a wonderful process to participate in.

Do you see yourself playing a part in the city’s revival and how?

I see my self continuing to love and appreciate the potential of students to transcend their limitations and to break the stigma associated with urban students. If this is my only contribution to the city’s revival, I would feel honored to have been a part of the process.

IMG_3883Nolan Elementary-Middle School serves a community with a rich history. Nearby Conant Gardens was the first neighborhood in the city where a black upper-middle class emerged. Musicians who would become household names across the country called the area home, such as the late hip-hop artist J Dilla and members of the Motown group Four Tops. Today while these neighborhoods are still as closely knit as they were half a century ago, they face many challenges. Nearly a quarter of adults in the Nolan community have not obtained a high school diploma and 43 percent of residents live below the poverty line, according to Economic Innovation Group. Nolan is emblematic of the various communities the EAA serves. Join Ricky Fountain, Stephany Laboo and all other EAA educators in rebuilding Detroit.

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