For LaShonda Carter, teaching is so much more than just a career. So when a former student of hers was in need, she didn’t hesitate to offer her assistance. The teacher ended up spending a day with her ex-pupil’s child in the car, in fact – and it was all for a very special reason.
As a child, Carter was brought up in suburban Chicago by her father Kenneth and her mother Sheila Carraway. Early on, she excelled at school academically and even took classes for exceptional students. And when she was only 16 years old, Carter left high school and started college in Carbondale, Illinois.
Carter graduated from the University of Southern Illinois with a bachelor’s degree in University Studies and a Workforce Education and Business Management master’s degree. And Carter also studied at Chicago State University as well as abroad, where she spent time at both the University of Cairo in Egypt and the University of Ghana in Legon, Acrra.
Nowadays, Carter works at Chicago Excel Academy, a school that’s located in Chicago’s Roseland district. And according to her Facebook page she also helps people to improve their credit. The special education teacher does a lot of work on top of her full-time job, in fact.
In addition to her teaching and work as a credit educator, Carter is studying for a second master’s degree in special education with a Learning Behavior Specialist 1 endorsement. And she also founded her own company called It’s All In Your Mind, via which she offers her services as a tutor.
Carter offers tutoring virtually or in-person. She works with both children and young people studying at school and college, or adults who are wanting to brush up on their academic skills or study for their General Education Development. And Carter also instructs parents on how to teach their children.
Although she has a lot of expertise under her belt, there’s one particular aspect of teaching that Carter specializes in. According to the It’s All In Your Mind website, “Her area of expertise is working with students who have learning differences and difficulties.” And there’s a reason why Carter is so passionate about what she does.
Despite the fact that Carter had done extremely well at school, she hadn’t found it easy. In fact, there was one aspect of learning that the future teacher had a tough time with. That’s because even though she was an academic pupil, she had trouble sitting exams. “LaShonda struggled in the areas of testing and often failed many tests,” her website states.
During her years working with young people, Carter has also provided counseling at The Family Centered Educational Agency. And over the course of her career, she’s been inspired to adapt her teaching style to suit her students. “I believe every child has the ability to learn, some just learn differently,” Carter writes on her LinkedIn page.
Moreover, Carter’s kindness to others hasn’t gone unnoticed. For example, in November 2018 she was honored for the work she does to give back to her community. Carter received a 40 Under 40 Award from the Young Women Professionals League, an organization that supports and connects females whom they regard as “future leaders,” according to its website.
The Young Women Professionals League stated that Carter was given the prestigious honor because of her contribution to helping young people in Chicago. “LaShonda loves the youth,” a Facebook post about her award declared. “Her heart is for the urban inner city troubled youth that have been tossed aside and forgotten about.”
Carter lives by the motto: “Be someone’s miracle today.” Small acts of kindness are important to the teacher, because she knows that they can make a big difference in people’s lives. “LaShonda believes that we all have the ability to positively impact a life daily by being of service to one another,” the Facebook post explains.
And it was Carter’s mantra that led to the extraordinary thing she did for a former student. Before she joined the faculty at Chicago Excel Academy, in fact, the teacher worked at Harper High School. It’s the oldest establishment of its kind in Chicago’s Englewood district.
However, Harper High is perhaps better known for the negative press that it has received. That’s because the urban school has long been associated with violence. Indeed, over the course of 2012, 29 students who were either studying at the facility at the time or had recently left were shot.
And that violent reputation has stayed with Harper High over the years. In fact, This American Life even ran a series about the school and its association with shootings. As a result, in 2018 it was announced that the Chicago Board of Education had decided to shut down Harper High.
Harper High School was founded in 1911, meaning that it had been open for more than a hundred years by the time the decision was made to close it. Carter subsequently left her position there to start working at Chicago Excel Academy in 2017. But her time at Harper had been so much more than just a job to Carter.
Indeed, although Carter has acquired a new position at a different institute in Chicago, that doesn’t mean she’s put all of her associations with Harper High School behind her. The teacher has stayed in touch with her former pupils since leaving the job, in fact, including Larresha Plummer.
For Carter, teaching is and always has been a calling, rather than a means to earning money. So the educator makes a point of doing what she can for her students even when she isn’t working. And that’s exactly what happened on the day that she came to Plummer’s assistance.
“I love my students,” Carter told Dana Kozlov from CBS 2 in August 2018. “It goes outside the classroom.” And the educator wants her pupils to understand that. “I just need them to know, it’s not just a paycheck – you mean something to me,” she added.
Indeed, it seems that Carter is fiercely protective of both her past and present students. And she doesn’t hold their mistakes against them, wither. “I think sometimes we forget that we all make bad choices sometimes, and sometimes we want to hold that over people’s heads,” she explained. “But nobody’s going to do that with my kids.”
Moreover, Carter also has a daughter of her own – and appears to treat her pupils as if they were her own children. So when Plummer was in need of some help, Carter was her first port of call. And the teacher didn’t think twice about agreeing to be there for her.
Plummer admitted to CBS 2 that she’s been through some difficult times during her teenage years. Indeed, she confessed that she was a troubled student while at Harper High School. But now, her life is very different – and she has a big responsibility in the form of her daughter.
In August 2018 the little girl was just three weeks old. Plummer and her boyfriend Tremon Hill had just welcomed their daughter into the world and named her Taliyah. Raising a child as a teenager isn’t easy, though. And knowing that she couldn’t do it all alone, Plummer turned to Carter when she needed a favor.
One day that month, Carter shared a video on Facebook. She called the clip “The Heart of an Educator.” And in the video, she explains where she is and why. While Carter admits in the footage that she has no idea how many people will see it, it’s since been viewed many thousands of times.
“I’m sitting in the car right now,” Carter tells viewers in the clip. “I’m holding a baby in my arms. This is not my baby.” The teacher can be seen with a newborn snuggled up in a blanket – and she reveals that it’s Plummer’s little girl whom she’s cradling.
Carter sometimes struggles with insomnia, in fact. And one evening, she was still awake at approximately 2:00 a.m. when a message came though on Facebook from Plummer. The latter had been a student of Carter’s for a couple of years.
“We always talk, even though I left Harper, I still keep in contact with all of my students,” Carter later explained to CNN. And it was Carter who was there when Plummer went through a tough patch. “She actually held me when I was crying,” the pupil told CBS 2. “She wiped my tears away.”
So when Plummer reached out to her former teacher on Facebook, she revealed that she’d recently had a baby. And things were trying for the new mom, who was also hoping to find work. “She was kind of going through some things, going through some struggles, and she needed to get to a job fair today,” Carter explains in the Facebook video.
Plummer planned to take public transportation to the job fair. But believing that wouldn’t be safe for the baby, Carter agreed to drive her there without hesitation. “There was no way I would have let her take a baby in a bus,” the teacher said to CNN. “I told her right away that I would pick her up in the morning.”
Carter organized for her own daughter to be looked after for the day and then collected Plummer and her baby, before driving them to the job fair. Then, the teacher sat in her car with her former student’s child, while Plummer applied for work. “You know me, no matter what I had going on, I stopped it,” she says.
And Carter insisted that she wasn’t sharing this on social media to elicit praise for her good deed. Instead, she wanted to show the world that teaching is far more than simply a career for her and many other educationalists. “This is the part that most people don’t know that the educators do,” she adds.
But that isn’t all. Carter asks viewers if they’ll donate items for Taliyah. “I’m reaching out because I need you all’s help. I need my village because this beautiful little baby needs something,” she says. “I don’t think the mom needs money or anything like that, but this beautiful baby needs clothes.”
Carter requests “gently used baby stuff, new baby stuff, wipes and diapers.” The teacher then adds, “She’s a young teenage mom, and she needs some help, so I’m reaching out to my village. I’m going to do what I can, as much as I can as an educator, but I know that I can’t do it all by myself.”
Determined to assist Plummer further, Carter asks that people contact her to let her know what items they can give. Then, she’ll drive over to them and pick up the donations herself to give to her former student and the baby. Carter vows to show Plummer that being a teenage mom shouldn’t hold her back.
“A teenage mother does not equal failure. So, I just begin to speak life into her and speak against the lies that the enemy is trying to flood her mind with and to let her know that she can still be successful,” Carter says. “There are people out here who will love and help her, who have never even met or seen her.”
Moreover, by that afternoon, Plummer had been offered one of the jobs that she’d filled in an application for. And she insisted that it was all because of Carter. “I feel like she’s the reason it happened,” Plummer told CBS 2. The mom-of-one is now working for Walmart, in fact, and is also taking college classes.
Plummer has been inspired by Carter, who has given her the motivation to succeed. “She’s a person that I look up to, that I really truly respect,” the teenager said to CBS 2. “I just want to graduate for her and become everything I said I was and promised her I wanted to become.”
Carter didn’t just drive Plummer to the job fair and babysit Taliyah, though. She also started a GoFundMe page to raise money for the new family. The teacher hoped to drum up $500 in donations – but the crowdfunding effort did even better than she could have expected and earned almost five times that amount.
The inspiring story about Carter and her ex-student was subsequently picked up by news outlets as well as going viral on social media. Now, however, the family is facing more difficulties as Hill, Taliyah’s father, is behind bars after being charged with murder. Nonetheless, it’s clear that Carter will continue to play a part in the lives of Plummer and her little girl.
“She’s a great person to have, she’s always going to be here,” Plummer said to CBS 2. “She is just a blessing to have.” But to Carter, she was merely doing what she was born to do. “There are tons of teachers who do this every single day,” the educator said. “I’m no different from them.”