Toolkit: Health Educator DeAndre Ingram

Deandre Ingram, health educator, Harpers Choice Middle School.

Meet Howard County health education teacher DeAndre Ingram. His Harper’s Choice Middle School classroom vibe is one of respecting his students’ challenges and connecting with them where they are. In this way, he finds respect comes back right back to him and opens doors for meaningful conversations.

I teach to change … As an educator, I’m aware of the challenges my students face inside and outside of the classroom. My hope is for students to remember the lessons I taught and the example I set through my interactions with them. Throughout my career, I design each course using these principles:

ENGAGE Students struggle in classrooms that mimic those from 20 years ago. My challenge is to create lessons that inspire students to think and apply. Students often want to know why before how. My job is to help frame content in a way that helps them make the connection between the why as we work through the how.

RELATE I’m a self-proclaimed amateur comedian. Laughter can immediately change the climate. Using humor, I’m better able to relate to and engage students. As a child of the golden era of hip-hop—and someone who listens to all kinds of music—I’ve found that it provides a fertile common ground. I play music as students enter the classroom and during many class activities to motivate, reduce stress, and keep everyone on task. Students share their music with me, too, and I incorporate their tunes in my class. When students participate in their learning process, they also take ownership of it.

GIVE TOUGH LOVE When I first entered this profession it was weird to hear students refer to me as “Dad” or say, “Mr. Ingram, you’re like a dad.” These comments are routinely spoken by students who don’t have strong male figures in their lives. I am known to listen, and I will respond with brutal honesty, especially involving academics and behaviors. When students come to talk, I often ask, “are you staying out of trouble?” Some will smile and say, “of course,” but some say, “not really.” That’s when we have a tough conversation. In a society that often doesn’t listen to its youngest members, it is the conversation we have next that lets them know that I care.

NEVER STAGNATE I want my class to be more innovative and engaging than any class I took as a student. I like to keep my lessons fresh, relatable, and useful. How I taught my first year is not the way I taught five years ago, and is definitely not how I teach now.