Denelle Wallace says her mentoring style mimics Angelou’s life lesson.
“I always strive to make people feel valued, worthy and heard,” says Wallace, an educational mentor for NUA in Brooklyn.
Wallace, who has been an educational mentor since the 2008-2009 school year, says her outgoing personality and ability to put a positive spin on anything has helped her reach both students and educators.
Her basic approach to mentoring is listening to the needs of students and teachers, combined with her humor and willingness to share past mistakes.
“All educators want to be heard,” says Wallace. “And all students want to be heard, too. We need to ask students what they need. Often they are left out of their own learning.”
As an associate professor at Norfolk State University in the Department of Secondary Education and School Leadership, Wallace advises aspiring teachers to be life-long learners. She encourages fellow educators to engage in conversations, read current research, study new strategies and see what other people are doing that is working.
Wallace says her biggest challenge is getting administrations to understand that there is no such thing as an “instant cure,” and that improving education is a continuous process.
“When the administration is present and supportive, teachers have more buy-in,” says Wallace. “The overall outcome is improved learning for students.”
Wallace, who received a Ph.D. in Urban Services with a concentration in Academic Leadership from Old Dominion University, says she was inspired to enlist as an educational mentor after meeting another mentor who embodied NUA’s passion and enthusiasm for student learning.
“No matter where a student comes from, they have strengths,” says Wallace. “I was impressed with NUA because they focused on individuals’ strengths, rather than weaknesses, to further students’ academic success.”
Wallace will continue as an educational mentor for NUA this year in Brooklyn. She says it is most rewarding to watch children have “a-ha” light bulb moments when they can describe what they learned, how they learned it and say, “I am smart, I am worthy and I can teach others.”
Denelle Wallace, Ph.D.