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For Tammi Butler, education is a passion

MARYAM ABDUL-ALEEM Special to the AmNews | 10/4/2012, 12:52 p.m.
For Tammi Butler, education is a passion

"I made the best decision to become a teacher 12 years ago," said New York City native Tammi Butler. But Butler didn't always want to be a teacher. The popular Bronx teacher, born and raised in Harlem, started her career in a publishing company straight out of college. Butler worked her way up the company ladder from an internship position to an administrative assistant, executive assistant and then trade-show coordinator.

However, during a trip traveling with the company while in the midst of a divorce, and taking care of a young daughter, a co-worker suggested Butler pursue teaching to spend time with her daughter during the summers. Since that day, the Bronx instructor has made a name for herself in more ways than one while teaching at the same middle school she taught at 12 years ago.

Today, Butler spends her days teaching students, giving back to the community and having fun doing it.

At her school in the Bronx, the teacher known for using singing and dancing techniques to help students learn is called "Ms. Butler, the dancing teacher," she said. "I will sing. I will dance. I will burst out into any type of song just to get them to really relate to what I'm teaching." Butler used the same technique on her daughter, who began reading when she was 2 or 3 years old.

In addition to teaching, Butler volunteers with various nonprofit organizations, including the National Coalition of 100 Black Women and the New York Urban League for Young Professionals. Butler serves as the educational sub-chair for the NYULYP's Community Service Committee, which visits high schools to help students and parents fill out financial aid forms to apply to college. The instructor also works with a number of celebrities for worthy causes, including Mary J. Blige's organization, FAWN. The organization hired Butler as a co-facilitator.

And at the Bronx school Butler works at, she founded a popular after-school program with two co-workers. LADIES was created to promote diversity, she said, but "we didn't realize that so many students--not

only did they not know what diversity entails, but they don't know that what made them different, what made them unique."

Butler told the Amsterdam News, "We wanted to encourage them to build their self-esteem, but do it with things that are relatable to them regardless of where they came from [or] what their home upbringing was.

"You have so many after-school programs that are academic-based, and we wanted to do something very different," she said. "Students were already in school for eight hours reading and writing. We taught them how to volunteer, and give of themselves, and learn more about communities and take the academics out. Have some fun."

Students referred to her program in the past often faced personal challenges at home or lived in homeless shelters, but the program has grown in popularity among all types of students because it exposes the girls to different educational and cultural perspectives with visits to plays and trips to Alvin Alley performances, along with overnight retreats. The program receives 35-40 referrals, but only has enough space for 20 students. Due to budget cuts, Butler lost her two co-founders and was forced to operate the program by herself for a year. This year, the two-day-a-week program lost all funding.

"So we are now left with the arduous tasks of either not doing the program at all or going under another company on another after-school program that doesn't have these same insights as we do," she said.

Anyone interested in helping to keep the program running at Middle School 45 in the North Bronx can email Tammi Butler at Tbutler@schools.nyc.edu.