We've said it before and we'll say it again: representation matters, especially at a young age. Children aren't just sponges — they mimic what they see and carry those learnings for life. Leigha Bishop, a pre-kindergarten educator at Lakeview Elementary School in Sugar Land, Texas, knows this firsthand, and is dedicated to going above and beyond.
After one of her students came to class in a topknot bun with cornrows, the young girl expressed that she wasn't all that happy about her new style. Bishop took it upon herself to empower that student by coming to class with the same hairstyle the very next day. The teacher, who's known for changing her look every week, thought that the young girl's hair looked great. "I told her, 'Don't be mad at me when I come to school tomorrow with my hair just like that!' Of course she didn't believe me," she says. Later that night, Bishop went home with fresh style inspiration and a mission: to show her student how she inspired her to feel beautiful with that same 'do.
A tweet with the photo racked up nearly 33,000 retweets and almost 106,000 likes. "I'm so surprised at the reception," Bishop tells Refinery29. "I mean, for people to feel this picture was exactly what I was hoping for, but never in a million years would I have thought it had the ability to impact this many people. My first grade teacher actually texted me — and she lives in Oakland! I’m very close to a lot of my parents, past and current, so I received a lot of reassuring messages that I’m doing exactly what God called me to do."
But even better than the viral photo was the reaction from her student. "When I opened the car door to help her out, her face was priceless," Bishop continues. "Her jaw dropped and she just stared at me. I told her, 'You thought I was playing? We are going to be cute together!'"
Thankfully, there are plenty of students and parents who wear their hair natural within Bishop's classroom. Instead of it being flagged as inappropriate or "unprofessional," she sees it being celebrated. It's something she longs to see at all schools around the world. "I advocate for all children, but Black children do need more positive examples. Black men and women need to know that our young ones are watching every post and every news headline," she says. "If young Black girls knew of the never-ending list of Black women who made a difference and are still making a difference, we wouldn't have so many little Black girls with no one to look up to. It is important for these girls to know that they are important, too. They have a voice that can be heard. They have a story that can be told. They have a heart that can be loved and respected."
Bishop is already one of those examples in our eyes — and social media agrees, too! "I haven't seen one negative response on social media," she says. "I’ve had many people express their not-so-good stories from when they were in school to stories from educators that have done similar acts of kindness. The underlying message was the significance of being loved and being noticed. It’s truly a blessing to be able to put so much love into the world at a time like this. Our children and adults of this world need to love more, starting with loving themselves."