Duluth educator Vance Hopkins remembered for devotion to education equity with awardIt’s about time. That’s the common sentiment shared by friends, family members and colleagues of the late Vance Hopkins following last week’s announcement that the longtime Duluth educator is this year’s recipient of the Drum Major for Peace Award.
It’s about time. That’s the common sentiment shared by friends, family members and colleagues of the late Vance Hopkins following last week’s announcement that the longtime Duluth educator is this year’s recipient of the Drum Major for Peace Award.
“I miss him. He could’ve done a lot more for these kids,” his widow, Marti Hopkins, told the Budgeteer. “He would’ve been honored to receive this award.”
Hopkins, an assistant principal at Duluth’s East Middle School, died suddenly Dec. 5 at the age of 61. On Monday, he was posthumously named the 2013 recipient of the annual peace award given by the Duluth chapter of the NAACP and the Martin Luther King Celebration Committee during the MLK rally at the DECC.
Hopkins was selected for his service to Duluth schools to go along with this year’s MLK celebration theme of “Education: The Fierce Urgency of Now.”
“Fierceness and the urgency of now — that’s a strong statement,” Marti Hopkins said. “But that’s what Vance was very concerned about: education for all kids.”
At least some say the award was long overdue for Hopkins.
“It certainly could have been given other years as well,” said Doug Bowen-Bailey, an event organizer and member of the committee. “It’s particularly fitting with the education theme.”
Hopkins’ widow remembers him as an educator who was willing to work with students, especially minorities who have a difficult time relating to predominately white teachers and administrators.
“He felt that the school district was failing when it came to students of color, particularly,” she said. “If you look at minority students, the system is to kick them out of class. Instead of dealing with students, they kick them out of school. Therefore, those students aren’t getting the education they need.”
Hopkins’ award was accepted by two of his daughters, Alicia and Tara, during Monday’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day rally. His widow was unable to attend due to health issues.
Those who knew Hopkins say he embraced the chance to work with students who ran into trouble at school.
“My husband’s methods, to some people, or a lot of people, might have seemed a little bit abrasive, but he did it in a way that he cared for all people,” Marti said. “Once you got to know him, you’d know that he was a very caring person.”
He was a devout Christian and didn’t differentiate between his faith and his leadership in education, she added.
Hopkins was raised in Duluth, and spent much of his life here. He was a longtime assistant principal within the Duluth Public Schools system, and previously served a stint with Duluth Edison Charter Schools.
Claudie Washington, president of the Duluth chapter of the NAACP, said he believes Hopkins’ childhood played a significant role in his determination to help others succeed in education.
“He got a lot of encouragement in this youth, from his own experiences and from the guidance of his parents and people in community,” Washington said. “It was easy for him to focus on his education. Many of us, me included, were raised by parents with little education, and it was hard to understand the need for a better education to make it in this life.”
Gina Klieve, the principal at Ordean East Middle School, knew Hopkins for about seven years before his death, and worked alongside him for the last two. She said she remembers him as role model, particularly for minority students.
“His smile, his quick wit, his humor, his ability to be firm and fair,” she said. “He always knew where you stood. He had a great broad perspective. He wasn’t narrow-minded. He was “big picture” all the time.”
Now that he has been added to the list of Drum Major for Peace Award winners, Hopkins’ teachings have the chance to live on.
“As a community, we need to continue to recognize the gift that Vance had shared, as well as the vision of Martin Luther King, Jr.,” Klieve said. “We need to continue on with Vance’s legacy, as well as King’s.”
Office of Education Equity also recognized
Duluth Public Schools’ Office of Education Equity, formerly known as the Desegregation Office, was awarded the organizational Drum Major for Peace Award during Monday’s MLK rally for its work to close the achievement gap.
The state changed its school strategy from desegregation to integration in 2009. As part of the transition, the school district hired 12 diversity-integration specialists to work with students, parents, teachers and administrators.
Cultural centers for African Americans, Native Americans, Latinos and Asians were also developed to help educate, plan and promote events highlighting different cultural groups in Duluth schools.