What is your background and how did you find yourself in the world of teaching/education?
I was born and raised in East Chicago, IN by my loving mother, Loretta Vaughn. I'm a proud graduate of Wabash College, located in Crawfordsville, IN where I majored in English: Creative Writing. Following graduation, I began a teaching career in 2015 by joining Teach for America-Memphis where I received rigorous coaching and training through Teach for America’s instructional/leadership team. Upon completion of a two year commitment to TFA, I received a Masters of Education from Christian Brothers University in the summer of 2017. I'm now in my third year of teaching, and look forward to many more years to come.
Where do you currently teach and what do you teach there?
Currently, I am the 6th and 8th grade Humanities teacher at Aspire Coleman Middle School, located in the Raleigh community. In my three years at Aspire Coleman, I have had the opportunity to teach Reading, Writing, and Social Studies. Along with teaching, I also serve as the school’s founding Athletic Director and Assistant Basketball Coach.
How would you describe the students you teach? What are some descriptor words that come to mind and why those words?
I would describe my scholars using three words: Resilient, Resourceful, and Respectful.
I refer to my scholars as resilient because many of my kids have been through the worst. My kids are facing battles that other kids their age don’t have to worry about. I have spoken with many of my scholars and some of them take care of little brothers or sisters at home, some of them are in charge of the cooking and cleaning at home, and unfortunately some of them are facing situations that are too personal to share.
I refer to my scholars as resourceful because from the moment my kids enter my classroom to the moment they leave, it is full throttle, pedal to the metal. However, I often tell my scholars that I believe that I learn more from them sometimes than they learn from me. The level of creativity, originality, and ability to make things happen, even with the absence of resources given to them is outstanding. My scholars truly know how to create excellence, even when excellence has not always been the model for them.
I refer to my scholars as respectful because that is what they are. Too often people, those from the outside looking in, paint images of what they THINK our scholars are like, and that is majority of the time completely an inaccurate portrayal of who they really are or what they really are capable of. I refuse to create a negative image of my scholars because the world has already created a false image of my kids.
What is one thing you want people reading this to know about teachers?
Teaching is one of the most difficult and seemingly unappreciated professions in the world. Something we all fail to realize is that we are in the positions we have today because a teacher helped pave the way for us. Teaching isn’t simply standing in front of a classroom and presenting material. The tool belt of a teacher is loaded with so many things that make teachers extraordinary. Teachers are not only educators; teachers are parents, counselors, therapists, nurses, doctors, and so much more. The next time you encounter a teacher, similarly to how to thank veterans, take the time to thank a teacher because they are molding our youth to eventually lead our communities.
You won a teaching award recently, what was the award and how do they select a recipient each year?
This year I had the honor and privilege of being nominated “Teacher of the Year” for the Achievement School District. The qualities for this award consist of teachers who have the respect and admiration of both their students and colleagues. Teachers earn this respect and admiration by serving as role models for their students and always having the best interests of their students in mind. They gain respect by treating students fairly, setting high expectations and being consistent with discipline. A Teacher of the Year goes beyond interacting with students on an instructional level and works to make sure their physical and emotional needs are met, as well. My school, Aspire Coleman, was asked for the first time this year to nominate candidates for the Achievement School District and Shelby County Schools teacher of the year. I received an email from Christopher Ferrell, Executive Assistant of the Achievement School District, to interview for the award. Following the interviews, I was then recognized by the Achievement School District superintendent, Dr. Airhart, as winner of the award for Aspire Public Schools.
What does Arion Clanton enjoy doing outside of the classroom?
In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my son, Amias, playing sports, particularly football and basketball, watching my favorite shows, and purchasing shoes. I'm really big on family and friends so I enjoy any time spent fellowshipping with individuals I care about. I'm also extremely competitive and one of the things I love doing most is playing spades and consider myself one of the greatest spades players in Memphis.