The record “Greatest Love of All” is one of Whitney Houston’s most iconic and inspirational hits. However, the version performed by the fictional character “Randy Watson” from “Coming to America” will live forever in infamy. Regardless of the version you prefer, the song tends to lend itself as a staple in schools across the nation due to the opening lyrics, “I believe the children are the future.”
The educators at the Ron Clark Academy (RCA) tend to agree with that sentiment with a mission “to deliver the highest quality educational experience where global citizens are born through engaging teaching methods, academic excellence, relationship building, and a passionate climate and culture.”
Junior Bernadin — Dean and IT Director for RCA — takes on that mission’s mantle. Bernadin is a 2022 recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring.
AfroTech had the opportunity to talk with the Haitian-American educator about the recognition and the continued work he is doing to uplift future generations.
A Place For Everyone
Junior Bernadin has his hands tied across the educational system. He works as a student-parent liaison, global implementation manager for RCA, robotics coach, math coach, and step-team coach to the five-time national championship team. Embedded in all of his work, Bernadin works to ensure students feel seen and can harness all of their talents.
One of the ways, Bernadin and RCA have been able to do this is through their recently implemented House System, similar to the houses described in “Harry Potter.” This system, according to Bernadin, allows students to take pride in themselves, their work, and their community.
“We are looking at different ways of creating a climate and culture where students can feel seen and understood and accepted while still being held accountable and having some fun throughout the process. It’s just a really, really, really remarkable system,” Bernadin said.
A Journey To The Mecca
Bernadin’s passion for his students is rooted in his belief in youth and his love for the City of Atlanta.
“I’ve always heard of Atlanta being like the Black Mecca. And, you know, I’ve always just been excited about the success I have seen from minorities here in Atlanta and how the city just embraces that. That kind of inspired me to move to Atlanta,” Bernadin said.
The Root Of Inspiration
Admittedly, Bernadin noted that he didn’t know much about RCA when he first got here, but once he learned of the school, he knew it was the right place to land. So, after responding to a posting on Yahoo Jobs, the Presidential Award recipient was interviewed and brought his wealth of expertise and passion to the table.
“What inspired me the most to work in education when I thought about it was really the fact that I felt out of place growing up in the education system. I’m of Haitian descent; I’m a Haitian American. And during that time, growing up in Miami, Florida, being Haitian wasn’t popular. There were things like Haitian day where you get beat up for being Haitian or, if you spoke proper English, people were like you were black on the outside and white on the inside,” Bernadin described.
The Battle Of Identity
The conflicting messages he received as a child only became apparent once he touched down on a college campus.
“It wasn’t until I got into college that I thought that was the first time I recognized I was Black. I think we were marching for a protest, and somebody was like, ‘Yeah, you know, as Black people, we need to stick together.’ I say, yeah, man, I’m with it, but I’m not Black. I’m Haitian, but I’m not Black. They were like, wait a minute, dude, you’re Black. Like, what are you talking about,” Bernadin told AfroTech.
From that moment on, the educator began to reckon with his past and learn and unlearn things that would ultimately lead to his work of ensuring no child ever experiences those types of issues.
Awards On Awards
Bernadin’s impact in the classroom and on students is one in which he takes great pride. In addition to his Presidential award, Bernadin has been recognized by the Global Forum for Education and Learning (GFEL) Top 100 Leaders in Education in 2021, Leadership Atlanta Class of 2022, Georgia Trend Magazines 40 Under 40 in 2019, Forbes Technology Council in 2018, plus as a Walmart Community Playmaker in 2018 and Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert in 2016.
A Lasting Impact
And while all the accolades are noteworthy, Bernadin’s biggest desire is to make sure every student he comes in contact with leaves inspired.
“I would say my biggest impact was always just trying to inspire our youth, and in all the roles that I’ve played at the school, I’m big on helping students to know who they are,” Bernadin said.