According to A. Intisar Turner (or Ms. Turner to her students), growing up school was nothing more than a chore, a “have to.”
“I was always good in math,” she confesses, “but school just felt like what I had to do, to eventually get a job—and fun was what I got to do when school and work were over.”
Then, in 2003, about a year after A. Intisar graduated college, she ended up in a classroom in Damascus, Syria.
“Maybe it took getting as far away from home as possible – but for the first time I saw—like really SAW—a joyful classroom. Kids AND teachers coming in happy, and ready to play and learn, together. I saw a love of education and thought; from here on out this…this is how I want to learn. This is how I want to have fun. And I immediately knew this is how I want to give back. I want to teach.”
A.Intisar Turner came back to the States and earned her teaching certificate and became a math teacher and a Mom. She noticed that bringing the fun would require her to step even further out of her comfort zone.
“These kids – my son and the kids in my classroom – they just had all of these needs. They needed to LIKE trying new foods. They needed to LIKE reading. They needed to LIKE exercising. Just doing these things, wouldn’t be enough – it needed to be apart of their culture. Trying different ways to reach their needs brought me to step out of my comfort zone of traditional education. I began to start to try to reach my students needs through their comfort zones. Eventually I actually liked it too.”
Turns out Ms. Turner likes making music and writing. So, she convinced her son Abdur-Rahman (A-Roc) and nieces J.La and Sajdah to start a band with her called, Family Tree. And they got to work creating covers of popular songs and original hooks about eating well, reading, and exercising our minds and bodies.
“I didn’t know I was an artist, but I became one by recognizing the needs of the kids in the communities around me. Being a teacher and a mom, lead me to become a movie maker, an author, a song writer, and risk taker. It also lead me to writing my first children’s book called “It Wasn’t Tradition” to help empower girls and women.”
The response from her family, her students, and her community has been overwhelming. Thousands (and thousands) of views. Hundreds (and hundreds) of engaged, joyful kids. And another lasting reminder of all of the good that grows, when we replant our “have tos,” to “get tos.”
Today, you can find Ms. Turner being an everyday hero, a game changer, and a Playmaker for her many current and former students at the Nathan Hale School in Roxbury, Massachusetts.
Click here to check out all of Family Tree’s videos on A. Intisar’s YouTube channel, (we’re especially fond of Eat Veggies like a Rabbit – check out Ms. Turner’s hat in the opener!), and leave her a note of encouragement and nominate an Everyday Hero near you by hitting the “submit” button below.