Alumni Spotlight: Courtney Covington

October 23, 2023

In September 2023, Relay alum Courtney Covington was honored with the Early Career Educator of Excellence Award by the Tennessee Teachers of Color Alliance. His principal told the selection committee that he is “a gem.”

Mr. Covington also recently learned that he is one of the top performing educators in the entire network of Rocketship Schools, a charter network with schools across California, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Washington D.C., and Texas. He led his students to 1.37 years of growth last year, with 65% of students meeting their goals. He was tapped to be a part of Rocketship’s leadership development program, Rising Leaders, and he’s studying for his Ed.D at Trevecca Nazarene University.

In other words - Mr. Covington has a lot to be proud of!

But when he thinks about his career as an elementary teacher, it’s the little moments that stand out - like one of his students who entered first grade without being able to read, but who was soon excitedly pulling books off the shelf, and reading signs at the grocery store with her mom. Seeing her progress, for him, is what it’s about.

Mr. Covington is a 2021 graduate of Relay’s Master of Arts in Teaching - Teacher Residency program in Memphis Tennessee. At the beginning of the year, Mr. Covington worked as a K-2 ISE (Integrated Special Education) specialist at Rocketship Dream Community Prep in Antioch, TN. His primary responsibility was to work with students on a one-to-one basis or in small groups to support their individual needs. However, due to teacher shortages and receiving his certification for pre-K through 3rd grade, he is now teaching 2nd grade STEM, with ownership of teaching 3 cohorts. Mr. Covington is enjoying being back in the classroom setting.

He has always taught at the elementary level and says that’s where he wants to be - with the youngest students. In college, he considered studying criminal justice or education, but decided on education so that he could influence students early in their lives.

“If I am the teacher who can give them a good foundation, that’s a child I can maybe save right there.” Mr. Covington says.

He enjoys being the Black male role model that he needed as a kid, as well as building an inclusive community where all students feel they are loved.

“In my classroom, we would say: we are a community, we celebrate differences, we are a team, we are all special, we care, we share, we listen,” he says.

Mr. Covington says that is one of the things he learned at Relay: how to authentically build relationships with students, and how to incorporate the things that kids are interested in, into his lessons. At Relay he also learned how to write an effective lesson plan, thinking about the objective and how to break it down piece by piece.

He especially liked that the program was hands-on, with lots of opportunities to practice, ad well as to connect with other like-minded, fired-up teachers. And on those hard days when he would feel drained, logging on to his virtual classes was often a great opportunity to receive support, or get re-energized by something someone said.

“We would do ice-breakers and community builders, and one of my favorites was ‘What is one thing we could do right now to make your day go well?’”

Mr. Covington has dreams of one day being in district leadership, working for a state education department, or teaching early childhood education at university. His leadership program and Ed.D are helping to prepare him for that path. For right now, he is enjoying helping his kiddos succeed every day.

Thank you to Mr. Covington for all that you do for your school and community!