Charlotte Green: Making a difference for young people

by Sonja J. Keith

Inspired by her mother, Conway educator Charlotte Green has made a difference in the lives of young people as a teacher, administrator, author and soon-to-be television commentator.

Growing up in the Cleveland community, Green attended Wonderview High School in Conway County. She and her family were active members at Pleasant Branch Baptist Church in Conway. “My family and the people in that church made me who I am,” she said. “That church is an important part of my identity.”

Her mother, Icy Lee Rainey, had the biggest impact on her life and served as her inspiration. She was not a formal teacher but was active in the church and a 4-H leader. “She always worked with the kids in the community and always was there for us,” Green said. “She’s clearly my role model. I make decisions based on the example she gave me.

“Being in education gives me a chance to live out what she put inside me on a day-to-day basis.”

Green had 11 brothers and three sisters. “She was pretty phenomenal,” Green said of her mother, who passed away in 2006. “There would always be a kid at our house.”

Green attended and graduated from the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, “and I never left, like a lot of people. I’ve been in education ever since.”

For nearly 17 years, Green has been in education with nine years in elementary school administration. “I loved it,” she said.

“It’s hard work. It’s a demanding job, but it is a job that every day you are pouring into kids, families and teachers. That’s pretty rewarding. I cannot think of anything more meaningful.”

For the last two years, she has been the gifted and talented supervisor for the Conway district. While she doesn’t get to interact with students as much, which she misses, she recognizes that her work is impacting a larger group of students. She oversees GT programs in kindergarten through high school, as well as advanced placement courses.

“God enlarged my territory,” she said. “I work with such a great team that has such a heart for kids.”

It was during her work on the elementary school level that Green began noticing the needs of pre-school students and the gap that existed between those who were prepared for kindergarten and those who were not. To help address the gap, she founded Lifelong Learners, a non-profit organization that champions initiatives that support Arkansas children’s success and provides free training and support to private daycares. The organization also builds parental capacity at the preschool level to cultivate an environment that promotes school readiness for Arkansas children.

The organization partners with the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce, Arkansas Department of Human Services Early Childhood Division, AETN and the Conway Public School Systems.

Among its activities, Lifelong Learners will soon be an affiliate of the Imagination Library, which will provide one book each month in the mailboxes of students through age 5 — free of charge. The program will also work with parents on how they can be an educational resource for their children to help prepare them for school.

The author of several articles and two books, Green will soon also help launch a statewide television program through AETN — Arkansas Voices for Education.

The program will feature six voices — student, parent, teacher, administrator, legislator and community — that will offer input and feedback on a variety of education topics. “We need to be intentional about giving voices to those that education decisions impact,” Green said.

The AETN program will air this spring, and the first topic addresses Common Core curriculum and the second, Preschool Education. “I’m excited to see where that leads,” Green said.

Green also serves on the board of the Faulkner County Community Foundation. “It is important to me because it is an organization the helps local non-profit organizations with achieving their mission, and it also helps families,” she said. “I think it’s a very unique organization that serves the community well by meeting various needs. I believe my time served on the Faulkner County Community Foundation board is definitely purposed and time well spent.”  

In addition to raising a family and her work in education, Green is involved in ministry at New Life Church. While she admits she is very busy, she trusts God to guide her. “God gives you what you need,” she said, adding that if she begins to feel tired or anxious, “I have stuff on my plate that is not designed for me.”

In going through some of her mother’s things after her death, Green came across a speech that her mother had written when Green was little about service to others. She raised the question “How do people see Jesus outside of church?” The answer she offered was through community service and helping others.

“She never talked about community service. She lived it,” she said. “For people to recognize that in me speaks to how she lived it. It was a big part of who she was and who I am.”

Green describes education as a “great equalizer,” which can define an individual’s future. Having an impact on a student’s ability to determine his or her future is rewarding, “to know you are part of that success and you get to experience the fruit of that labor.”

Reflecting on her time in education, Green most enjoys seeing the
impact education and her work have had on others. The measure of her influence on others is found when she encounters a student or family at the store or in church that she has worked with during her time in education. “God is honoring what I’m trying to do,” she said. “My mom would be so proud.”