St. Louis American: Tell us about your current position in education, its responsibilities and challenges and how you are able to make a difference.
Monica D. Diggs: I currently teach 6th grade English-Language Arts at Hazelwood North Middle School. I have been teaching at North Middle since the school opened in 2007. I started out as a 7th grade teacher, but moved to the 6th grade when I became a team leader in 2009. Teaching middle school can be extremely challenging, but it is also a lot of fun because 11- and 12-year-olds are adventurous.
One of the biggest challenges that I face is the fact that over half of the students entering middle school are reading below grade-level. This is challenging because if the students can’t read, then they struggle with the grade-level curriculum. So I have to provide my students with interventions to help improve their reading skills.
St. Louis American: Although educators often work alone, education is a team sport. Tell us about your current team, how you fit into it, and who helps to support your work.
Monica D. Diggs: I have the privilege of working with a wonderful group of individuals who are committed to helping our students reach their highest potentials. My team members include Nana Becoat, Kristen Collins, Precious Oge and Angela Waters. We spend hours collaborating to come up with the best ways to help our students.
Our principal, Dr. Tony O. Brooks, has made College and Career Readiness as the primary theme for our school. He believes that we must start preparing students for life beyond high school before they get to high school. So, under his leadership, we have implemented ACT prep for students starting in 6th grade.
St. Louis American: Tell us about any previous positions you have held, in education or any other field, that contributed to your development as an educator and helped prepare you for your current role.
Monica D. Diggs: Prior to teaching in Hazelwood, I spent three years working as a teacher’s assistant in St. Louis Public Schools and then moved on to Special School District, where I worked at Riverview Gardens Central Middle for five years. While there, I decided to go back to school to get my teaching certificate. I went back to Fontbonne and obtained a certification in Middle School Language Arts and MA degree in Reading Education. I just recently obtained my Doctor of Education degree in Reading & Literacy at Capella University.
St. Louis American: Tell us about your own educational journey as a student.
Monica D. Diggs: When I first went to college over 30 years ago, I had absolutely no desire to become a teacher. My dream was to become a television newscaster covering government and politics. I spent my first two year of college at SEMO where I started out majoring in Broadcast Journalism and Political Science. I then transferred to Fontbonne, where I ended up obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree in General Studies with an emphasis is Social Science and English Literature.
After finishing undergrad, I was not quite sure of what I wanted to do and because my undergraduate studies were focused on Social Science and English Literature my advisor at the time told me that the next logical step was for me to go to law school. The problem was that I had no desire to practice law. So I was idle for a while, taking a job working as an in-home daycare director and, after about three years, I went to work as a Residential Care counselor at the Annie Malone Children’s home in St. Louis.
It was there that I learned that there were so many children who were without parents, or homes, and although they went to school, because of their circumstances, many of them were angry and hostile and did not put much, if any, effort into school. I only worked at that job for three months, but the sadness that I saw in those kids left a huge impact on me, and I did not know what, but I knew that I wanted to be able to somehow make a difference in the lives of children.
It was around this time that I decided to seek out God’s plan for my life. I needed some direction so I literally prayed and asked God to lead me into a career where I would be able to make a difference and where I could help other people. The next job that I got was working as a teacher’s assistant in St. Louis Public Schools. That was the beginning of my career in education, and it did not take me long to realize that it was exactly where God wanted me to be.
St. Louis American: Tell us about your future goals in education.
Monica D. Diggs: In addition to continuing to teach middle school, I hope to do some adjunct teaching at the college level.
St. Louis American: Tell us about any mentors crucial to your development as an educator.
Monica D. Diggs: The one that had the greatest impact on me becoming an educator was my late pastor, Dr. Charles M. Roach. Pastor Roach, who was a former middle school teacher, gave me lots of sound advice that I hold onto to this day. The biggest piece of advice that he gave was that the best way to teach children is to build relationships with them so that they knew that I cared about them. Once students know that you care, you can teach them anything.
St. Louis American: Tell us about any relevant personal information you would like to share with the community – your family, friends, home church, passions.
Monica D. Diggs: I have been married to Devin Diggs for 21 years, and we have three children, Devin Jr., Malik, and Marina. I am the oldest of three children to my parents Carolyn and Eloyd Thornton. I have two brothers, Justin and Michael. I am also the oldest grand-child of Servisa Croff. I am a member of Trinity Mount Carmel Baptist church where Michael Cleveland Jr. is the pastor. I have been a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. for nearly 30 years and am currently active in the Omicron Theta Omega chapter. In my free time, I enjoy reading, watching Cardinals baseball, and running in Creve Coeur Park.