The endless highway indicative of travel in the southwest granted me a brand of peace that I haven’t experienced since my childhood. With the landscape dwarfing our van it becomes pathetically clear that no man truly has dominion over the natural world. In fact, there is something sad about the occasional sites of industry that punctuate the vast fields and mountains flanking the road. While my coming of age was set to the sounds of spring peepers and bushes of wild blackberries, these wonders had always existed within the skeleton of mild suburbia; nowhere have I seen such sublimity as in the hills and valleys of New Mexico.
My interview begins in the beautiful adobe style home of our host, Lynn Marcus ’66. Tiffany Brody Blackbull is a petite woman with blonde hair reminiscent of sunflowers and a personality equally vibrant and warm. Her husband, Leroy Blackbull, is a large, soft-spoken man, whose patient cadence of speech suggests a quiet wisdom and strength. Together, the two seem to reach a personal and aesthetic equilibrium, making them a very pleasant pair of passionate and worldly professionals, community leaders, parents, and educators.
Tiffany and her husband live on the Navajo Nation reservation, Blackbull’s lifelong home, where she serves as a Master Teacher for the reservation schools. As she discusses the challenges of reaching out to disaffected and underserved students I can’t help but reminisce on my own experiences within the Baltimore City School system, having spent my last year working in an afterschool program. The psychological, logistic, and resource related problems faced by students of disenfranchised populations is palpable. However, Mrs. Brody Blackbull has dedicated her life to empowering and offering a “ladder” to students whose prospects for a better life without education are grim.
Having the utmost respect for educators, writing about what a high quality teacher does as a layman is often a difficult process that yields contrived and underwhelming results. With so many schools of education, complex pedagogical techniques and learning tools, how do we determine what combination truly guarantees success? Having tried graduate school and opting instead to “get [her] feet wet” in teaching as soon as possible, Tiffany’s style of instruction emerged after a slash of Ockham’s razor:
Respect your students and always hold them to high expectations-it’s that simple.
Tiffany believes (and rightly so if you investigate her class’s oustanding test scores) that students will rise above their own perceived limits if they are supported and continually challenged. With this in mind, she has an incredible amount of faith in her community and their resilience. Soon after explaining to me her educational philosophy, Tiffany takes a moment to remember former students; her eyes light up at the prospect of success in their futures.
Perhaps the most satisfying aspect of my interactions with Tiffany- besides news of her success-was our company during the interview. Sitting beside us happily recollecting and discussing their own experiences were three other alumna of Goucher college. While the formal interview was conducted with Tiffany, the dialogue in the room included all visitng parties, and reflected what I view as a uniquely Goucher continuum. Despite our varying class years, ranging as far back as the 1960s, we all reveled in each other’s stories, victories, and opinions. Tiffany presented a familiar laundry list of faculty whose influence she cited to be paramount to her future success, including one of my own favorite instructors.
Mrs. Brody Blackbull to me is the definition of a Goucher student; Tiffany is a passionate, cerebral, professional with a sense of humor and an altruism that comes as second nature. I could not be more honored to meet yet another accomplished alumna of my school and am beyond optimistic towards the future of both Mrs. Brody Blackbull and her students.