Becoming a school teacher is the profession Michigan Chronicle Best in Black Awards Best Schoolteacher winner Dr. Richard James was destined and groomed to go into. His father was a special needs teacher in Detroit for 37 years at McFarlane Elementary, so education was stressed in his household growing up in Detroit. James saw his dad impact the lives of so many as a teacher, and knew he wanted to follow in his footsteps when he grew up.“I must’ve been about 10 years old when I decided I wanted to be a teacher,” said James. “My dad used to make my cousins and I do work in the summertime before we could go out and play. He would help us help each other in whatever field we were struggling in, and that’s how the concept of becoming a teacher came about.”“What ended up happening later in life was, two of my cousins and I became teachers because of my dad. He helped to shape me into the man that I am today.”James is a 1985 graduate of Cass Tech, and returned to his alma mater in 2005 when the new building was first opened to teach business and marketing. Cass Tech won awards for Best School, Best Principal and Best Coach at the Best in Black Awards, and is a special educational institution in Detroit. James only had one regret about coming back. “I came back to Cass Tech a year too late,” he said. “I walked in with the new building, and the only thing that would have made it better is if I taught in the old building.”“But it’s the best thing ever. Now I’m teaching some of my old classmates’ children and some of my old students’ children. So I’m able to give back to different generations of Technicians.”One of the students James impacted at Cass Tech was Blake Hall, a 2009 graduate. Hall is the creator of Fresh Never Fades Clothing and was a part of the business curriculum in high school. James was a mentor for him in his senior year.“My locker was right across from his classroom all four years, and I went to him for a lot of things,” said Hall. “He helped me prep for my co-op interview, went over college apps with me, and wrote a letter of recommendation for me to FAMU.”“He actually took the letter back from me over something, later gave it back to me after I proved I deserved it. That taught me that as quick as something can be handed to you, it can be taken away. He impacted my life a lot on the entrepreneurship and business side of things.”That is Dr. James, man of integrity stressing the importance of ownership and education to his students. He has a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Morehouse College, a master’s in teaching, and and a doctorate’s degree in educational administration and public policy from Wayne State University. He is also a business owner with ACN Incorporated, an $800 million company that allows individuals to become independent business owners by being a part of the telecommunication, energy and merchant services industry. He used his educational background and business experience to encourage his students at Cass Tech to be entrepreneurs as well.“What I’ve learned over time, a lot of my students aren’t into business overall like they think they are,” James said. “So I try to do things that’ll bring it home for them. For example, every semester, my seniors have to do 100 scholarships, for a total of 200. They fuss about it, but when they find out how much money it costs to go to college, it’s a shock to them. So financial literacy is one of the main things that I try to teach.”James has seen the good, bad, and the ugly of teaching in the Detroit Public Schools Community District and would like to see the district rise to prominence once again. The vocational centers of the past and entrepreneurship programs are two things he would love to see implicated into the city’s school system. Detroit is booming with new businesses, and he would love to see the citizens here become owners, not just consumers.Serving the city of Detroit has been James’ lifelong mission. So much so that he has been a volunteer officer for Detroit Police Department since 2008. He has 547 hours volunteer hours working events at Ford Field, church events, and other community engagements around the city.”“I always wanted to be a police officer, because my uncles were, but they wouldn’t allow me to do it, he said. “I found out there was a volunteer unit, and because I love my city, I wanted to find another way to give back. And I’ll keep doing it until I can’t do it anymore.” One would be hard-pressed to find a more accomplished teacher than James, but there is still more for him to do and experience in his life. He has a 6-year-old daughter, and once she is done with high school, he has three goals he wants to accomplish: teach courses at Morehouse, become the superintendent of the DPSCD, and run for mayor of Detroit.

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