We had the good fortune of connecting with Deonte’ Towner and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Deonte’, Let’s talk about principles and values – what matters to you most?
Growing up I had a strong family structure. As I experienced different friendships and heard their stories I then realized that not everyone had the same experience as me with family. In my life family is everything but to many of my friends their friends were their family or they were on a journey to finding family in other people. When I became a teacher I wanted to be a father figure to my students. I wanted to be my students friends, dad, uncle, cousin, or just that listening ear. I wanted to create a family structure for my students. I wanted them come to class everyday and feel loved. I wanted them to feel the support from other students. I wanted the love in my classroom to be so strong to the point that even enemies in the class could be there for each other when things got tough. Sometimes it can be hard as a teacher because you have students that have been abused and broken so bad to the point they are afraid to open up in the classroom. Every day I begin to say encourage words to each student and then I have my students write encouraging notes to each other. I try my hardest to teach my student empathy because we live in a world where everyone is focused on chasing the bag and not caring about anyone but themselves. Everyone is focused on gaining followers and stepping on people on the way to the top. I want to change that way of thinking in my classroom which will one day transfer to the outside world. I want students to know that they don’t have to transform into the structure of the world. I am a firm believer in God so in the morning when I get ready for work I begin to pray for the day, each student in my head and as I am brushing my teeth I pray for each teacher as well. Love is the way.. At the end of the day I have to remind myself all the time the reason why I am a school teacher. I have to consult Jesus Christ in everything that I do. Good or bad day he reminds me that I did my all for the students and staff. He comforts me and never leaves me. He guides my steps in the classroom and proves to me time after time that he has my back. I received Teacher of the Year twice and it is all because of him. All the Glory belongs to God.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am a high school English Teacher and a published author. My two books are called Pieces in the Dark and Secretly Unhappy. They are both sold on Amazon. My favorite author is Sandra Cisneros and I will never forget when I was scrolling through Instagram and she posted me on her page. I cried that day because I grew up reading all of her stories. I felt like she gave me the stamp of approval by posting my book on her instagram page. I was on the Steve Harvey show and won 10,000 dolllars for my students but her recognizing my book topped that experience and so many others in my life. I called my mother and cried on the phone and she was in disbelief as well. All in all, I give all the credit to Jesus Christ because he is the one that gives me strength to encourage students every day and write books. This was not an easy experience because when you write stories there is a point where you dig deep inside your life and it can be very painful because those are memories I have to relive all over again to get them down on paper. I constantly have to remind myself that it is the past and God has a brighter future for me. When I write stories its to connect to others and let them know that they are not alone. I have gone through anxiety and depression growing up. There will be times where I would get sad for no reason. I also wrote in my book that in my teenage years I tried to commit suicide a few times because I felt worthless and I was confused about who I was. One day my mother came into my room and said for me to get on my knees and pray. I prayed like never before. I began to cry out to God. My depression was so bad to the point that I would take a shower and get back in because I forgot that I just took a shower. God gave me joy, peace, love, hope, faith and restoration all in that same night. Twelve years later whenever my depression and anxiety try to creep up God reminds me who I am and whose I am!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
If mi compa came to visit me in Los Angeles I would take him to the Santa Monica Pier. There are so many artist performing on the side of the street. Sometimes there are blues, country, corridos and rappers performing for the crowd. While you are walking you can tip the artist and even dance in the area that they are performing in. Also there is an outside mall at the pier where you can go shopping and buy a few items that you may be interested in. Also, there is a boardwalk too as well. You can ride rollercoasters and go to the beach. The beach never gets old. There are so many beautiful people enjoying life and new friends that you can come across. Laying on the beach is very relaxing and calms your spirit. The next spot I would take mi compa is Long Beach. There are so many Mexican vendors and food trucks on every corner. Long Beach has so much diversity and culture. Also, we have the best tacos in Long Beach. I know every city claims to have the best Mexican food but Long Beach beats everyone. There is also a great Poke spot that I would take mi compa which is called Ahi Poki and the other one is called Poke and more. Those two sushi spots leave you feeling energized and ready to take on the day. Also, for some exercise I would take mi compa to Griffith Observatory and the Hollywood hiking trail. You can see all of LA from there. At the end of the night when you’ve had a long day that is a great spot to chill and relax.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
First off I want to give all the glory and honor to Jesus Christ for helping me get to this point in my life. For protecting me from danger seen and unseen. I also, want to give praise to my mother and father (Joseph & Emily) for always encouraging me and praying for me in the midnight hour. They told me that I can be whatever I put my mind to as long as I put in the work. Credit to my brother and sister Joseph and Nina for always making me laugh in times of sadness. I also want to give credit to Ms. Shoop, Ms. Reedemer, Dr. Carlile and Dr. Curammeng for pushing me to be the best educator that I can be. They have helped me unpack my trauma and personal issues of my past so that I can use my stories to help others grow. They have shown me how to open up and be comfortable enough to share my past with people and not be ashamed. Their transparency has helped me trust humanity again.