Black Teacher From Washington Retires From High School After 47 Years

After 47 years of teaching history, Mr. JD Sweet is retiring from his position as a social studies educator at Olympic High School in Bremerton, Washington. His career began at Central Kitsap High School in 1977, where he was the first Black teacher.

Sweet encountered difficulties early on, with some children, parents, and coworkers concerned about having a Black teacher in a position of responsibility.

“It was the first time, I’m sure, there were white students that had a Black person in a position of authority over them,” Mr. Sweet told 11 Alive.

Despite criticism and complaints, Sweet persisted. He recalled considering quitting but felt a calling to continue his work.

“God said, ‘J.D., there’s work to be done here,’” Sweet said.

Sweet stated that his teaching philosophy stressed critical thinking beyond fundamental academics. He encouraged pupils to evaluate and challenge facts, preparing them for a society that requires more than just factual understanding.

Sweet stirred controversy in 1985 when he invited a communist speaker to come to his students during the Cold War. The event sparked a storm of angry letters, but Sweet held firm in his choice, believing in the significance of discussing challenging issues.

Reflecting on his work, Sweet voiced concern about pupils’ excessive dependency on cell phones and believes in developing their creativity and interpersonal skills.

Sweet thanked all of the pupils he had taught over the years as he said his goodbyes.

“To all students I’ve had an opportunity to serve, it was my honor,” Sweet said. “So many of you made me so proud. Somebody was listening. Somebody was paying attention.”

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