Blake Thompson ’13: Through the eyes of another
The former Phoenix football linebacker is empowering students at New Orleans’ Livingston Collegiate Academy.
By Tyler Seibring ’19
Until the lion learns to write, every story will glorify the hunter.
Blake Thompson ’13 has used this African proverb as a guiding principle since joining Teach for America after graduating from Elon with a degree in human service studies in 2013. After spending three years with the nonprofit teaching students in Marion, Alabama, one of the centers for the civil rights movement, the former Phoenix football linebacker took a position at New Orleans’ Livingston Collegiate Academy, one of six secondary charter schools in Louisiana aiming to prepare all students for college success.
By then he had earned a master’s degree in secondary social studies from Samford University. He describes Livingston as “truly a professional learning community.” It’s there Thompson’s passion was unleashed after he was assigned to teach a global justice class. As part of the course, Thompson explores the duality of “hunters” (oppressors) and “lions” (oppressed) and how we interact with one another throughout issues in the 20th century.
He believes the key to fighting against oppression is to arm young people with knowledge and an understanding of the truths hidden within history. “We have faced enough as black people,” he says, “and I want to ensure that the kids I teach are equipped with the knowledge, fortitude and attitude to ensure their fight against a system largely rigged against them.”
Before coming to Elon, Thompson never thought of being a teacher. But after taking classes that dealt with social advocacy and cultural competence, he started to learn not to take things at face value but rather to use someone else’s perspective to inform his own worldview. He was vocal on campus against racial discrimination issues and organized protests and events to bring awareness and make the Elon campus a safer space for students of color.
These experiences inspired him to help future generations make a better world for themselves and their peers, something that guides what he does to this day in the classroom. Through his involvement with football—he served as defensive coordinator and head coach at Marion and was named head coach at Livingston in 2016—he found a way to pursue another passion. “As soon as I knew that I wanted to be a teacher, I instantly knew that coaching would be an essential part of my happiness and duty,” Thompson says, adding he was fortunate to learn from great coaches and compete against some of the best athletes in the country during his time at Elon.
Thompson’s role as a teacher allows him to help his students to reach their full potential. Everything he does is for his students. “The only reason I think of myself as a good teacher is because I want to give the kids in front of me the best that is out there,” he says. He wants to make sure his students get opportunities they don’t even know exist. “They deserve an education that rivals, if not tops, anyone else’s in this country, regardless of their skin color or zip code.”
As a college graduate, Thompson says he has a responsibility to share with others the knowledge he acquired through the many opportunities he was afforded in and out of the classroom and the field. He will forever be thankful to Teach for America for helping him solidify the path he is on. “TFA gave me an opportunity to become the person I wanted to be: one who influenced young people of color positively, but truthfully, to see how our world works,” he says.