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Take Five with Chrishan David, English and AP African American Studies Teacher at Gwendolyn Brooks High School

23 February 2024

Two years ago, Ms. David became one of 60 educators to teach the AP African American Studies Pilot 1 program, offering students a rich introduction to African American history and culture. 

Brooks Teacher, Ms. David

Take Five is a series that highlights some of the many members of the CPS community who are going above and beyond for our schools. If you know someone who is making a difference, nominate them to be featured here.

As we continue celebrating Black History Month, we are excited to highlight Chrishan David, who has worked with CPS for nearly 20 years and serves as a teacher representative for the Advanced Placement (AP) African-American Studies pilot course at Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep

Ms. David began her teaching career at Bowen High School before transitioning to Brooks, where she now serves as a 12th-grade English teacher. Two years ago, she became one of 60 educators nationwide to participate in the launch of the 2022 AP African American Studies Pilot 1 program. In preparation for this new class, Ms. David partnered with educators and leaders throughout both the District and the country to design a curriculum that offers students a rich and inspiring introduction to African American history and culture. 

“We need to celebrate the fact that this course exists here in CPS, and what it has done in terms of opening up pathways and exposing our students to highly rich, important, and relevant ideas and topics,” says Ms. David. “We are trailblazers; that’s what I like to call my students.”

Now in its second year, the pilot course has expanded to nearly 700 schools throughout the country, and will officially become available to all U.S. high schools in the 2024-25 school year. Teachers and school leaders can click here to learn more about adopting this course into their schools. 

What can students expect to learn from AP African American Studies?

This is a magical course! Students learn history, explore literature, and examine art. They learn about the cultural nuances of being African American in the American landscape, and have a new awareness of the struggle. But mostly, they have the opportunity to rejoice in the triumphs, in the joy, in the resilience of African Americans and their imprint on our culture. It's a very powerful experience for kids to have this unearthing of topics that are not typically addressed in many educational settings.

What is special about this course? 

This course has created a community. It allows multiple perspectives, and regardless of their backgrounds, there is part of a story that students identify with and end up sharing. It is a place where students begin to trust each other, and where they learn to value different perspectives. The two times I've taught the course, I've seen growth in how my students respect each other and talk about advanced social issues that can be off-putting for young minds. These students are not afraid to actually engage in those topics. The voice that has come out of the class has been amazing.

What can educators gain from teaching this course? 

I'm an English teacher, but to teach the course, you really do need to have a sound knowledge of African American history. This pushed me to connect with history teachers at my school and ask for support. My administration also supported me by planning lessons with me, so it built a community as well for teachers. The District has supported AP classrooms as well by creating a Professional Learning Community (PLC) with educators from other high schools that have adopted the new pilot course into their curriculum. In this group, everybody's coming in with their expertise on the course material and their experience based on their student population, and it has really created a melting pot of resources and creativity. 

What are your hopes for future courses like AP African American Studies? 

I hope that we can continue to grow ethnic studies as a whole within our District and State. African American studies is an awesome place to start, offering space for other voices and perspectives. Moving forward, I would like to see more representation, equity, and diversity in our curricula.

Why is it important that this course exists? 

This generation of students really needs to feel like what they're learning matters. When we can make connections that talk about experiences they're having or issues they've heard about outside the classroom, students become engaged, work harder, and want to be at school to learn.

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