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Membership Spotlight: Shakealia Finley

NCSS: Thank you for taking the time to interview with us. Could you tell us about your involvement with NCSS over the years?

Shakealia: I first learned of NCSS in 2007 while working as a high school economics teacher. The organization provided me with a community of social studies teachers from across the U.S. who could help me navigate my way through the curriculum as a new teacher. I attended the annual conferences as a way to connect with other social studies educators and find resources for the classroom. My connection with fellow social studies educators and attendance at the conference led to my becoming involved with the African American Educators Community. 

NCSS: What inspired you to become an educator?

Shakealia: My parents, both educators, inspired me to become an educator as I witnessed how a student’s life could be positively transformed through education. The students I’ve encountered along the way also serve as a source of inspiration. As they grapple with how to make sense of the world and their place in it, I am grateful for the social studies classroom as a space that offers so many opportunities for a student to find their voice. 

NCSS: Tell us about your involvement with the African American Educators Special Interest Community Group.

Shakealia: I joined the community because I recognized the need to connect with other African American teachers in the social studies. I also wanted to contribute to the community’s efforts to be a voice for African American educators within NCSS. Through my involvement, I’ve been afforded the opportunity to connect with a diverse group of educators from the U.S. and abroad who share a commitment to enrich students' lives through social studies teaching and learning.

NCSS: What are some of the activities conducted by the African American Educators Special Interest Community Group?

Shakealia: The Community sponsors a session at the NCSS Annual Conference to highlight the research and practice of African American educators in the social studies. Session topics have included the Black founding mothers and fathers of the U.S., and teaching about race from the perspective of an African American educator. Also during the conference, we host a lunch so that members may fellowship and connect with one another. In addition, we hold an annual meeting to discuss the needs of African American educators in the field of social studies. Our goal is to build community, meet the needs of African American educators in the social studies, and be a voice within the NCSS organization.  

NCSS: As an economics educator, how would you approach teaching about African American history through the lens of economics?

Shakealia: Race is an important factor in economic history. We can’t authentically tell the economic story of the U.S. without telling how race (and racism) played a part. For me, that means centering race and the African American experience in historical lessons on our economy’s development beyond slavery and the civil rights to include topics such as homesteading, sharecropping, The Great Depression, the post-World War II economic boom, redlining, federal highways expansion, etc. I believe including traditionally excluded narratives in lessons on economic history serves to deepen students’ understanding of economics concepts.