“I understand that I am a vessel for Christ because this is the place where he has called me to be in this season of my life,” said Bobby Coston, a third-grade teacher at Maximo Elementary.
BY DEXTER MCCREE, Feature Writer
ST. PETERSBURG — In today’s climate, working in education is very stressful. It is not an easy job teaching virtually, dealing with a pandemic, and calming students’ anxieties. It is certainly not one for the faint of heart. Teachers are a God sent to help students, be a light for them, give them hope, and tell them they can when all other aspects of life tell them they can’t.
“I understand that I am a vessel for Christ because this is the place where he has called me to be in this season of my life,” said Bobby Coston, a third-grade teacher at Maximo Elementary. “I know that teaching is a calling on my life, and I do it with all my heart.”
Growing up and even in college, being a teacher never crossed Coston’s mind. As a first-generation college student, he changed his major a few times.
“I had no idea of the career path I wanted to take. I knew I wanted to help others; I had a passion for it,” explained Coston.
In the summer of 2015, before graduating from Florida A & M University in Tallahassee, he recognized that times were challenging and time was running out. He had no money, and his college internship was unpaid.
He had a friend working as a physical education coach at Melrose Elementary, and he told Coston about the five so-called “failure factories” schools in St. Pete. He mentioned they were hiring paraprofessionals and needed people to work and help the students. Coston figured that he would give it a try.
Then-principal Lakisha (Falana) Lawson hired him at Maximo Elementary despite what Coston believed was a sub-par interview.
“It was horrible, but she still gave me a chance. I am forever thankful to Mrs. Lawson,” explained Coston. “I started as a paraprofessional assisting teachers and scholars, and it dawned on me that I love working with and helping students and my colleagues. This is how I became a teacher.”
Coston is a unique commodity in education. He is a Black male elementary school teacher who impacts young lives early, an ordained minister who loves children. Research shows that most students are not exposed to Black male teachers, and when they are, it’s for disciplinary reasons. He embraces the challenge.
“This is big because the ministry is the only way I am able to teach and do my job. I was nominated as the Emerging Leader Teacher of the year in only my second year of teaching, and it is only because of the ministry,” said Coston.
Learning about God’s love, grace and mercy graciously given to him is how Coston works to give that back to others. It has helped him work with some of the most challenging students. He has developed patience with his students because of how patient God was and still is with him.
“The way I prepare to give a message on Sunday is the same way I prepare to teach my lessons every day,” explained Coston. “It is by God’s wisdom that I am able to do my job. I am not saying that I’m perfect at my job because I am not, nor am I saying that I am a perfect person, but because Christ forgives me, I am able to forgive my students.”
Bobby Coston, Jr. is married to Kharissa Coston. Together they have a six-month-old baby boy, Bobby Coston III.
To reach Dexter McCree, email firstname.lastname@example.org