Taking all the things she’s learned she built this amazing business with diversity, equity, and inclusion as her main thing. Nita Creekmore operates Love-Teach-Bless. Mother of four and wife, going into her 18th year in education. She started her journey teaching elementary education. She was a second-grade teacher, first-grade teacher, and fifth-grade teacher. And then from 2000 to 2017, she became an instructional coach. She started Love-Teach-Bless in 2015.
Nita says that at the beginning of her journey, she too would say she didn't have enough time to take on one more thing. But she now recommends starting small, starting on something that you really want to do. She started an Instagram account and followed a bunch of people that she really respected. She started with one idea and then it kind of built from there. One thing she tried not to do was compare herself with other people.
When she first got an Instagram, the idea that you were a little fish in a big pond was sort of the viral aspect. One of the teachers she respected kept saying, “you're a big fish, but you know, you're just not there yet.” It's one of those things that you kind of have to feed into yourself. And that you don't have to burn the candle at both ends in order to be successful. Initially, Nita was an elementary school teacher in love with literacy. She would just snap pics of things that she would do in the classroom. And then she would post it and then people would respond.
It was then that she realized that maybe more people wanted to actually know more about XYZ and literacy. That’s where she started completely authentic just showing things that she was doing in the classroom. After listening to The CEO Teacher® Podcast she wondered if maybe she needed to start using hashtags. Or find ways to connect with others that want to know about literacy. She needed to find ways to hone in on her audience. Really finding her niche. She started small, did her research, and continued to be her authentic self.
As she grew her platform she realized that her focus was shifting toward her real passion. Equity, inclusion, and diversity. So everything that she posts about comes back to those 3 concepts. Equity, inclusion, and diversity. She posts a lot of picture books to spark conversations about race, and the history around including everybody in the classroom space, through picture books. So the true heart of what she shares all comes back to her main thing. It’s the heart of what she talks about every day. Even in her instructional coaching. Equity, inclusion, and diversity. That's the heart of what she does each and every day.
She feels like this is a time where people are able to have conversations and are more open to having conversations about including everyone at the table. One of the pieces of making sure that we're being inclusive is also listening to the voices of people who are unheard of. So Nita is able to include all of those things to come together and make it equitable for her followers. So the equitable piece is listening and taking action of the voices that are unheard. For Nita that is such an important piece, to offer a space, where educators feel heard. Able to share their great ideas. And celebrate the little things that turned into big things. I appreciate Nita going in-depth with her thought process, especially now that she’s migrated out of the classroom and into an instructional position. Because teachers still need her and they need to hear her. We both live in Georgia, which is pretty diverse, but diversity is just one little small aspect of our lives.
As Nita’s business has grown, from a small step of sharing on Instagram, into an opportunity to speak at some of the biggest teacher conferences that are out there. Let’s recap a bit. Nita started as a teacher sharing on Instagram and moved into an instructional coaching position. She’s very passionate about diversity and equity, then she gets these amazing opportunities. It all started with a company called E2E. Basically, a company that offers educational conferences that are free. Carrie, the owner of that company reached out to Nita, as she was just kind of getting her name out there and she started doing free conferences. She gives credit to where it really began. She was offering her voice to the conversation. She continues to do those free conferences to this day because that is where she started. Those free speaking opportunities are what opened the door for her teacher business to grow.
And then she started presenting at teacher self-care conferences. That was another thing that she really tries to hone in on and talk about as a teacher, self-care and taking care of you. And so that was another door that allowed her business to grow. Even though it may not have been big in the beginning. And it may not have been a whole bunch of traction in those early years, that's what opened the door for her to be noticed. Once people realized she presented too, her business took off. That is when Get Your Teach On reached out. And now people will message Nita and say, “I’m thinking about presenting. Here's a presentation that I did. I would love for you to look at it.” Those types of interactions are what helped her grow. Because you do have to start small and just put your proposals out there. If you don't put yourself out there no one's going to know about you. She just began putting herself out there and erased the fear.
And now she is able to share her passion when she presents at these conferences. She focuses her lessons around what she’s passionate about. She also works with Elena Aguilar, a coaching guru. Nita mentions how Elena tells her, every conversation counts and every conversation is a conversation about equity. So she really keeps the main thing, the main thing in every presentation. She always centers her work around equity because that is her niche, her main thing. The heart of what she shares.
That's something to be proud of because she gets to share that in so many different avenues, not just with the teachers that are inside of her school. But also in these amazing big conferences. And I love what she said about doing things for free. I think that oftentimes our pride might get hurt in the beginning because we feel like we've put all this effort into creating this presentation. We should get paid for it, but it does take a little bit of grind on one side where you're doing things for free, even if it's for your district or at the state level because sometimes doing things for your district will get you noticed.
Nita works not only with her community school but also with a professional learning community within local counties. Last year she did one talking about teacher self-care. Teachers were invited to it from the region and it was virtual because of COVID. But she was able to work with them as far as professional learning in her region.
Nita says that teacher entrepreneurs that are looking to make their businesses more inclusive and equitable should ask, “Whose voices aren't heard, whose voices do we not hear on the platform?” And then once you ask yourself, who's voices aren't heard and who aren't present, get those people at your table and listen to them. It's just one of those things that it is taking a step back and saying, to yourself, who is missing? Being equitable and inclusive means asking yourself whose voices are not there and how do we get those people at our table to make our business better? Because diversity, equity, and inclusion make it better. It makes it better because that's really what our world looks like. Making sure that our businesses look like that as well is super important.
So when something polarizing comes about with diversity or being an advocate and people ask other people to speak up, I wanted Nita’s take on all of that because I often feel like I have to speak up. I want to be a voice and I want to share with my audience. I always want to be the voice that speaks up and is not afraid. So I asked Nita specifically how she feels about Instagrammers speaking up and taking action.
She made the distinction that while it’s important to speak up, it's also important to make sure that you're streamlining to the voices who are the experts. For instance, if she plans to create a post about what's going on in Afghanistan, she has a friend that is her go-to. She will share her posts in stories and tell her audience to go follow the friend if they want to know more about X, Y, and Z. Nita doesn’t want to misspeak and say the wrong things. Instead, she shares; to find out more about this, go follow this person or go listen to this. She thinks it's important to make sure, for the sake of equity, inclusion, and diversity, that the voices in which the stories are coming from are the ones that are heard. It was such a great perspective. And I'd never thought about thinking about it that way.
Nita also has a t-shirt business with her husband. @Blessedbeardedtees. He is a counselor in the school system. They create all sorts of t-shirts. He’s the inspiration behind putting phrases and words on a t-shirt that helps to dismantle racism. They both fully believe in diversity, equity, and inclusion. So a lot of their t-shirts surround that main thing. In the beginning, Nita says she mentioned they should start a t-shirt company. Even though they felt like everyone was doing a t-shirt company. Her husband encouraged her to do it anyway and not care what others were doing. It wasn’t started to make money, but instead as a place to share something they loved. And then people started buying them.
That's how great businesses are born though. You start doing something because you love it. It's in line with your passion. It's exactly what you want to do. It's exactly what your TPT store is about and what your Instagram is about. So it all just works. It all makes sense. And then it kind of explodes. It starts doing really well. It’s an organic process a lot of the time.
Nita and her husband just shared it on her Instagram page. Her husband shared it on his Facebook page. And they let people know by word of mouth, but they haven't gotten to the point where they are just completely advertising other places outside of social media.
I love that she said word of mouth because people in 2021 want to know all about advertising and Facebook ads, but word of mouth marketing is still a very real thing. Also when people are sharing their products on social media they encourage them to send the posts over. Then they can repost it and keep the conversation going.
Nita shared some encouragement and advice for those just starting out on their journey as a teacher-slash-business person. Nita says, “Go for it.”
And she meant that with all of her heart. She wanted to be honest and took us back to when she first started her TPT. The products weren't the greatest. She had to go back and revamp them to make them look better. You know, when you start learning more about how it should be visually appealing. Sometimes you just have to learn as you go and then you get better. So the more you do it and the more you just step out on faith, the better you'll become. She also says do your research, That way when you know better you do better, and in the midst of it all, be sure to give yourself grace. You are creating your business and living out your passion. So just go for it, and get started.
When it comes to education, Nita’s proudest moment is allowing herself to release anxiety and fear. Those two things used to hold her back so much. When she released the fear of failure, and not being perfect the doors began to open. Nita says it is and was a lot of work and still to this day she’s a perfectionist. She works on releasing that idea of perfectionism because everyone gets it wrong sometimes. Nita says when you get it wrong or when things happen, give yourself grace and keep pushing towards your goal of an equitable world.
If you want to connect with Nita in the virtual world, you can find her @loveteachbless on Instagram. Listen to the whole interview here: https://kaysemorris.com/podcast/diversity-equity-and-inclusion-as-a-ceo-teacher-with-nita-creekmore/
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