Education consultant calls upcoming conference a homecoming for stakeholders

Kesha Muhammad-Garrett calls her upcoming Decatur education conference a homecoming because she likes the excitement the word stirs, she said. “School homecomings are times to look forward to seeing those we haven’t seen in a while and recall previous good times together. Teachers, students, and staff are returning to schoolrooms after an 18-month absence. That’s pretty exciting.”

Muhammad-Garrett is the CEO and founder of UpLift Them, LLC, an educational consulting practice that provides strategies to improve students’ academic performance, and to act as advocates for students. The business also publishes books created to boost young people’s self esteem and create conversations about issues they may be facing.

For the conference, titled An Educator’s Homecoming—Moving Beyond the Pandemic, she chose session facilitators who, like her, have both academic credentials and in-school experience. “In addition to my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education, I have more than 20 years teaching experience. It takes both of those to bring about real improvement in our education systems,” Muhammad-Garrett said. “We have some great sessions facilitated by educators who have done the work and are excited to share with all stakeholders—educators, parents, community leaders and community members.”

Muhammad-Garrett said she believes it truly “takes a village” to educate a child. “Some parents send their children to school and expect the school system to take complete charge of their education—and that is our job—but when parents, community leaders, and members of the community at large take an interest, the results can be amazing.”

She explained that all of the conference presenters are people of color because she feels children of color face greater academic performance obstacles. “Our goal, however, is to create an environment in which every child can succeed. Every child has the right to a quality education, but for some there is a gap between what children are receiving at home and in their neighborhood and what’s offered at school. We’re here to bridge that gap,” Muhammad-Garrett said.

“Children who are struggling academically aren’t the only ones who need those outside the school to be involved in their education,” she continued. “Those who are making good grades, and even gifted children, sometimes aren’t getting everything they need. Parents don’t always understand what their rights are with regard to their children’s education. Just because something is written down doesn’t mean it can’t be changed, but they have to be involved in the conversation.”

The pandemic, she said, further expanded the gap. “We really didn’t expect it to last this long. Some teachers and students left their schools in March 2020 thinking they would be back in two weeks. I don’t think anyone imagined at the time that it would be 18 months before we could return to school buildings.”

That long absence exposed issues that schools may have been unaware of such as that some children live in home with computers and internet access and others don’t, she said, and that’s an issue to be addressed if all children are to receive a quality education. “We’re not returning to normal,” she said. “We’re returning to a new normal.”

Muhammad-Garrett, who attended private and public schools in DeKalb County, said she can’t remember when she wasn’t interested in education. “My cousins tell me that when I was a small child, I always wanted to play school. After I got to college, I don’t think I ever thought of majoring in anything other than education,” she recalled.

The conference will be held at Decatur Conference Center, 130 Clairmont Ave., Decatur. It begins with a virtual kickoff Sept. 24, 7 until 9 p.m. The in-person sessions are Sept. 25, 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Registration is required. For registration and fee information, visit https://an-educators-homecoming.eventbrite.com.

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