Educational Excellence: Freya Rivers

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Freya Rivers began her 25 year teaching career in Louisiana in 1971 before becoming a principal in her last nine years as an educator. Within that time, Rivers worked in several schools across the country, with a desire to implant a better curriculum and turn suffering schools around . She has been quite successful.

One of Rivers’ greatest personal successes was the Sankofa Shule Academy in Lansing. One of the first charter schools, it opened in 1995 with an afro-centric focus. It was an opportunity for Rivers to implement ideas and try new things.

“It [felt] like a dream school … It was perfect,” she said. Rivers sought the ability to have an impact on students’ lives and leave the best impression she was able to as a teacher.

“When I was a teacher, I was able to meet standards and still teach how and what I wanted to teach,” she said. “I’m headstrong enough to [accomplish] what I want to do.”

After graduating with an undergraduate degree from Louisiana State University, Rivers found the path she was on was unsatisfactory. In 1971, she joined Teacher Core at Southern University in Baton Rouge.

“My mother and aunt were teachers … I just fell in love with it.”

Since then, she has taught at several schools and written and edited many published books including, Heshima to Hotep: Ten steps to Educational Excellence. She has written books for beginning readers, math books, a history book on Ancient Egypt, and a sex education book titled, Mama Said.

Rivers always strived to create a “climate and culture of learning” in her schools and classrooms. “All you need is that spark,” said Rivers, “and once [students] are successful they, will want to go on and do more.”

To Rivers, the best thing about being an educator is the ability to make a difference.

“If you make a difference in the classroom, you make a difference in the lives of students. You can change them,” said Rivers. “Nothing else you can do in life will give you that feeling.”

Rivers’ students have traveled all over the world. She has taken classes on field trips to places like Gettysburg, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Cleveland, Niagara Falls, Los Angeles, Canada and even Egypt.

Rivers quotes her favorite saying, “Children can’t even dream of what’s possible if they’ve never been off their block.”

She recently retired from a four-year-long stint as principal at Bingham School where she got a chance to make a difference. At Bingham, she was frequently involved in classrooms, before and after school activities  and even school social work. “I taught all day long,” said Rivers. Now, she’s enjoying spending time with her husband, a politician in Lansing.

She has a love of cooking (especially Cajun food), reading, and fashion, but educating will always be her passion.“That’s all I think about,” said Rivers.

Rivers plans to continue consulting other educators, start a day care center, possibly open a bed and breakfast and offer Cajun cooking classes.


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