Relay Ambassador: Devin Evans
Ambassadors are Relay students and alumni who have chosen to share their stories as teachers and graduate students so that others can learn what it takes and get inspired to join teaching. You can find Devin on Twitter @mrdevydev and on LinkedIn under his name. Follow him there for more insight on teaching!
Did Mr. Evans know he wanted to become a teacher from a young age?
“I used to grab chalk from my classrooms and teach my teddy bears on my mom’s steps,” he says. (Mr. Evans, we’ve heard that from a lot of teachers, so you’re in good company!) He was also inspired by a litany of fabulous educators along the way. Just one example - “Ms. West made learning engaging and interactive. Every day we wanted to go to her class, because we knew she’d make learning fun.”
In high school he noticed that he learned particularly well from Black teachers, and that there weren’t necessarily a lot of Black male teachers available to him. So he resolved to become the role model he knew other students needed.
Cut to 2023 - and Mr. Evans now teaches English 3 (a world lit curriculum) to 11th graders at Kenwood Academy High School in Chicago Public Schools. He practices a style called “pentecostal pedagogy” modeled by Dr. Chris Emdin, a public speaker, author, and education professor at the University of Southern California. No, he’s not teaching about religion, but using a style designed to get kids engaged. This means his teaching is filled with passion, call-and-response, and helping students take ownership of their learning. (You can see a video of this on his YouTube channel!)
Mr. Evans studied history and social science education in undergrad at Michigan State, and felt comfortable with theory, but saw that he could use more support with the practice of teaching, the actual teacher moves. So he enrolled in Relay’s Master of Arts in Teaching program in Chicago, graduating in 2018.
“Relay taught me a lot,” he says. “Number one, the power of making sure every student is engaged in the lesson. Also so many practical skills, like classroom management, writing standards-aligned lesson plans, how to differentiate, how to choose Lexile-aligned texts…so many of these skills are just embedded in my practice now. I think I use the unit-planning template to this day.”
Of course, being a teacher can still be challenging, even with more than five years of experience. But what keeps him motivated is the mission and vision of his work - seeing all of his students attend college and become leaders in their community.
He sees the impact of his teaching regularly. At this year’s end-of-school circle, many of his students appreciated him for being a Black male teacher, teaching with passion, and helping them become better writers, thinkers, and speakers. He thinks of one student in particular, who started off the year very quiet and shy. He took her aside and told her that he believed in her, and felt she had something important to contribute. Towards the end of the year, she gave an excellent presentation in front of the whole class - and even told Mr. Evans she is thinking of becoming a teacher herself!
“I saw that with that one small choice, I could impact maybe 100s of other students through her,” he says.
Mr. Evans loves social science and literature because it’s about the human experience. “History is a powerful tool and weapon you can use to curate the reality you want for yourself and the future,” he says. “The only way we can change the narrative is by knowing history and saying ‘Let’s try something different.’”. In his classroom, he’s helping students gain the skills they need to chart their own paths for a different future.
Thank you, Mr. Evans, for all you do for your students and community!