Empathy for one another is different from sympathy, in that one can experience the feelings, thoughts or attitude of another and it’s exactly what may have earned one Jackson teacher statewide recognition; Her ability to sew this invaluable trait into the hearts of her students.
Malaika Quarterman teaches theatre at Power APAC, but her lessons go deeper than performing arts.
Her students’ productions tell controversial stories– From the classic, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, to the more recent ‘The Laramie Project’ — the story of Matthew Shepherd; a young gay man, tortured and left for dead.
Quarterman says her biggest hope is “that students will walk away with the ability to exercise empathy.”
“Twenty years ago, nobody wanted to hear that a person was being targeted because of their sexuality.”
Her objective? It’s to open such discussion among students, in order to explore their own values and impacts on society; Instilling empathy and value for diverseness.
“I think we can see now, 20 years later, with a theatre troupe from Jackson, Mississippi, doing their show and it impacting high school students and adults in the community, alike.”
The Laramie Project won a state championship. Quarterman’s work with the children has earned her the honor of Teacher of the Year, for the State of Mississippi.
Awards aside, she says her top honor is seeing her students learn a better acceptance of others and as she watches them grow, they’re less into themselves and more involved in giving back to the community, with things like activism and volunteering in soup kitchens.
Quarterman says she’s also learning her own lessons, like balancing work and family .
Her message to other women, trying to do the same, is to “forgive yourselves often…” in your quest for perfection.
“Ii think that [as women], we can decide to hold ourselves to excellence, whether it’s in our household, our relationship, in our careers, but realize there’s a difference in excellence and perfection.”