We are thrilled to present the first in a series of Small Stones Interviews, a conversation with educator LaQuisha Beckum.
LaQuisha (they/them) is a community college Psychology/Child Development instructor, currently at American River College, and a Program Coordinator with the Sacramento Youth Commission. They are also the president of the Board of Directors for the nonprofit Generation Reformation. Full disclosure: LaQuisha and one of our editors, Emily, were colleagues for several years at De Anza College. We caught up with LaQuisha in April to find out what they’ve been up to since the election and how the new administration, and its policies, are impacting their students.
Small Stones: So, you are the first person we’re actually talking to–thanks so much! How did you get into education, if we can start from the very beginning?
LaQuisha Beckum: I began my career as a camp leader back in 1996. I worked my way up to assistant site director, then site director receiving certification to work with 5-9-year-olds and 10-14-year-olds. That work was with the YMCA and lasted 5 years. During this time, I was also working as a TA for a professor at SJSU. I spent one year working at a teen center after leaving the YMCA, then went into research. I didn’t start teaching college until winter 2006 at De Anza College.
SS: So what are things are like right now for you, as an educator? You’re at American River now? Teaching psychology?
LB: Yes, I’m at American River College now. Students are hanging in there. I think they feel similar to the rest of us, without them having the historical notes we have. They are feeling anxious, afraid at times, hopeful (one teen told me that he hopes this will be a phoenix phase…things crumble only to be reborn into something better). I work with youth ages fourteen to nineteen AND teach at the college. Nothing that either group has said is vastly different.
SS: What historical notes do you think are most important? Fourteen-year-olds in particular have only really known one administration…
LB: I think above everything, is understanding systems…that these things aren’t created by individuals, that it’s a group effort! We can talk about the idiocy of Drumpf all day, but it took a messed up system to even make it possible for him to reach this rank of government.
SS: I remember being afraid about what would come next if he weren’t elected, wondering what the system would spit at us the next time.
LB: Exactly…they are familiar with Obama, but they probably didn’t realize he dropped three bombs an hour on the Mid-East in 2016.
I have been quite numb since he [Trump] won.
SS: The optics were way better, but bombs are bombs.
SS: How does it affect how you teach? I’ve been your student before in professional settings, so I know you connect with students well. Is that easier? Harder? More urgent? None of the above?