For Black History Month 2021, Pittsburgh Public Schools is honoring Black PPS parents who are essential workers. Between managing full time E-Learning with their students and working during a pandemic, these individuals are actively making black history during these unprecedented times.
Photography by Jason Cohn
Mrs. Pozza, a third-grade teacher at Pittsburgh Concord, received a Black History Month assignment from a student. In the short writing piece, Matthew wrote about his mom, Charlotte, who works on the COVID Unit at the VA hospital, taking care of our country’s veterans. The essay so moved Mrs. Pozza she shared it with the District administration.
Charlotte Wilson is a registered nurse at the VA Pittsburgh Medical Center. Prior to the VA hospital, she worked on a medical-surgical unit and adult ICU at Magee Hospital.
“This pandemic has been tough on us all. Being an essential worker during this unprecedented time has been therapeutic for me. Every patient I’m able to care for, every family member I am able to reassure, encourages me and allows me to play a small part in this global issue.”
Mrs. Wilson, a mother of six, has two children in PPS— Matthew and a sophomore at Pittsburgh CAPA.
She is grateful for the helpful teachers and staff at both schools. “The teachers at Pittsburgh CAPA and Concord had a nearly impossible job, and they excelled. I’ve learned a lot with and about my children during this time with E-Learning. Although we all pray for a return to “the way things were,” I’m thankful for the dedication of my children’s teachers and the efforts of the PPS district in their endeavor to support my children and I.”
Thank you, Mrs. Wilson, for caring for and prioritizing your patients’ needs and being an involved PPS parent!
Officer Michael Lee Gay Sr.
Master Patrolman Michael Lee Gay Sr. has been a Pittsburgh Bureau of Police officer for more than 27 years. Currently as a Community Resource Officer, Mr. Gay tries to address any issues and disputes within the community to avoid criminal action.
Being a Black man in the community and a police officer comes with its struggles. But, Officer Gay is totally committed. When he puts on his uniform, he leads with “patience and compassion to give people a voice.”
Officer Gay is a third generation Peabody High School graduate. His daughter graduated from the high school in 2011. His youngest daughter is a junior at Pittsburgh Obama, walking the same halls as her sister, father, grandfather, and great grandfather.
Also, Officer Gay is an active PPS grandfather of three, one at Pittsburgh Faison and two at Pittsburgh Liberty. During remote learning his daughter has remained focused on completing her schoolwork. But, she misses the social interaction with her classmates and teachers. Officer Gay admits he’s not that great with computers, but with the support of his wife and daughters, he’s able to help with E-Learning.
Officer Gay risks his life every day to protect and serve the City of Pittsburgh, and finds the time to lend a helping hand with the education of his daughter and grandchildren. This Black History Month, we simply say, “thank you!”
Yetunde Sussan Olaore
Yetunde Sussan Olaore is a STRIVE Program Coordinator at the University of Pittsburgh's Swanson School of Engineering. She works with minority college graduates to improve their transition into doctoral engineering programs at Pitt. She also ensures their successful completion by employing evidence-based strategies for student and faculty engagement and fostering an inclusive academic climate.
Ms. Olaore is also the proud PPS parent of a visual arts major and instrumental major at Pittsburgh CAPA. She admits E-Learning has been both rewarding and overwhelming at times.
At home and at Pitt, Ms. Olaore supports her own PPS students and the students enrolled in her program. “It has been rewarding knowing that I can support my Pitt students as a professional and my children as a parent.”
“My thanks goes to our PPS teachers and support staff for all they do to support our students during this new normal. I am grateful.”
Many parents like Ms. Olaore are educating in more ways than one. This Black History Month, we say thank you!
Joseph Jones Sr.
Joseph Jones Sr. has worked for UPS for two decades in different roles. Now, as a preloader, he loads the trucks for delivery the next day.
He is the parent of a Pittsburgh CAPA graduate and a Pittsburgh Liberty fourth grader, Joe Jr. JR, as he’s affectionately called, is a high honor roll student who loves school, playing chess, and riding his skateboard.
Mr. Jones, who is a proud PPS graduate himself, says only one word can describe being an essential worker and an active parent during remote learning— perseverance. “It’s important to continue our efforts to achieve, despite difficulties and opposition.”
We salute Mr. Jones for his tireless efforts to serve during the pandemic and remain steadfast in his child’s education.
Pittsburgh Dilworth social studies teacher Clifford Perkins has been a PPS educator for 18 years. He takes pride in working the frontlines and educating the next generation of leaders. Mr. Perkins hopes to lead his own PPS school one day.
He knows PPS well with four children who attended PPS schools. Currently, Mr. Perkins has a freshman and a junior at Pittsburgh Obama. His wife, Leslie, who also supports at home with remote learning, is principal at Pittsburgh West Liberty.
He says being an active parent and teacher during this time requires both patience and perseverance. “Patience when learning how to navigate through the multiple learning platforms offered by PPS with my children at home, the children I teach virtually, and the parents that are in need assistance with learning the nuances. It is a difficult and stressful time for everyone and sometimes people may want to give up and quit but we as teachers, administrators, and all essential school employees must be steadfast and united when it comes to educating our children of the PPS as safely and effectively as possible.”
Thank you, Mr. Perkins, for being both a PPS teacher and parent! We acknowledge and appreciate your devotion to both sides of the classroom.
Michael Clemm Jr. spends most days delivering mail in the East End. The seven-year US Postal Service letter carrier makes sure he has the energy to deliver mail and manage his three PPS kids during remote learning.
With one student at Pittsburgh Sterrett and two little ones at Pittsburgh Fulton, Mr. Clemm says that during E-Learning he's everything- educator, counselor, and cook. “I'm wearing many hats. So I am learning I have to process this as simple as possible for them.”
Mr. Clemm delivers in more ways than one. He is a devoted PPS father and an essential worker. This Black History Month, we say thank you!
Tanika Ward Green
Tanika Ward-Green has been a home health nurse for more than seven years. She’s more than a nurse— she is a companion and provider. From cooking to physical therapy, Ms. Ward-Green provides a range of assistance for her clients in their home.
She is also the mother of a Gifted seventh grader at Pittsburgh Allegheny 6-8. Working full time and supporting her child during the pandemic has been a balancing act. Ms. Ward-Green checks in on her daughter often, and sometimes brings her to work to provide additional support with classes.
Ms. Ward-Green’s passion for nursing and dedication to remain involved in her daughter’s education is why we recognize her this Black History Month. Thank you!
DonMiguel Watson-Ellis Sr.
As a Port Authority bus operator, DonMiguel Watson-Ellis Sr. transports essential workers to and from work during the pandemic on the 93 Lawrenceville-Hazelwood. For the past 14 years, he sees this work as an honor and privilege. But, now, more than ever he recognizes the impact of making sure other essential workers get to hospitals that's on his route safely.
A PPS graduate himself, Mr. Watson-Ellis has four PPS students— a 2014 Pittsburgh CAPA graduate, a 2020 Pittsburgh Sci-Tech graduate, a senior at Pittsburgh Sci-Tech, and an eighth grader at Pittsburgh Sci-Tech. He appreciates remote learning because it provides him with the opportunity to have more hands-on involvement in his children’s education and increased communication with teachers and staff.
Mr. Watson-Ellis, thank you for your service to this region and commitment to Pittsburgh Public Schools!
Loreal Perry wakes up every day with one goal— to feed PPS families. She works in food service at Pittsburgh Student Achievement Center where she provides families with Grab n’ Go meals. Last year, Ms. Perry volunteered to distribute Paragon food boxes and holidays meals at six PPS schools.
During the pandemic, she has learned how to balance making sure her two PPS children at Pittsburgh Lincoln and Pittsburgh Allderdice are up and ready for remote learning and ensuring Homewood families have access to nutritious meals.
For three years, Ms. Perry has been a dedicated Pittsburgh Public Schools food service hero. This Black History Month, we pause to say thank you!
The pandemic is a time to serve for PPS parents like Derek Gordon. He’s on the frontlines everyday, working in different communities to drop off food , supplies, and other resources to local families. From providing cleaning supplies, protective gear and assistance with unemployment applications, Mr. Gordon’s goal is to meet the needs of all families.
Mr. Gordon, a Family Development Specialist at UPMC Children's Hospital, has two students at Pittsburgh Obama. The Pittsburgh Peabody graduate checks in on his children daily with E-Learning while he’s at work. During this time, he is grateful for his wife, Pittsburgh Westinghouse assistant principal Dawn Gordon, who often assists with learning at home.
This Black History Month, we salute Mr. Derek Gordon!
Jamillah Brown works 10-hour shifts in respiratory care at a local hospital to have more time at home to support her two PPS students.The PPS graduate has one student at Pittsburgh Allegheny, a student at Pittsburgh Obama, and a son who recently graduated from Pittsburgh Obama.Ms. Brown says, “To be an active parent during E-Learning has come with its trials and concerns. It forces you to prioritize your time, while consistently preparing you for change... my children are my number one priority.”We salute Ms. Brown for being an essential worker during a global pandemic, and we thank you for choosing PPS!