At a time when teachers are burned out and leaving, when teacher shortages are growing, it’s useful to learn about a beloved educator who inspired many children, including her own. And, as it happens, she was the mother of philosopher Cornel West.

Journalist Seth Sandronsky writes about Irene B. West here:

Irene B. West was a trailblazer on many levels. As Elk Grove’s first Black classroom educator in what was a rural community, she enjoyed a long career as a teacher and principal.

The Elk Grove Unified School District named an elementary school after her in 2002. West died in April at age 88…

The school now showcases a stunning memorial mural of West and her favorite saying: “If you can’t be a highway, then just be a trail. If you can’t be the sun, be a star. It isn’t by size that you win or you fail, be the best of whatever you are.”