Honoring the Life of Mrs. Clemons



Today was a hard, weird, sad, inspiring day.

Today I attended the funeral of my Pre-Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Esther Harris Clemons. I realize how unique and special it is to have remained on contact with her after all these years given that we live in the Baltimore/Washington region not a small town. I also sat near my Kindergarten teacher (one of her really good friends) at the service. I loved seeing Mrs. Lewis as well, but wish the circumstances were different. I am grateful for the privilege to have decades long connections with the both of them. I am sad that I can’t take her to lunch.

I am completely confident that Mrs. Clemons loved me. I loved her with my whole heart for 47 years – from the time I was a 4-year-old in her Pre-K class. She told me I was smart and would do great thing. She gave me extra work when I was bored and turned me on to Sesame Street. She is one of the reasons that I love Sesame Street.

When she met my daughter when she was about 4 years old, Mrs. Clemons spoke life into her as well. She told my daughter how smart she knew that she was and how she would do great things. Mrs. Clemons loved all children – not just me – and she taught me that teaching is much more than transmitting information. She showed me that genuine connection, mentorship, and empowerment are essential for students.

The last time I saw her was at a holiday event during the pandemic. As I held her hand and walked her to my car, she proudly told the security personnel that I was one of her former students and now I was holding her hand and helping her like she used to hold my hand and help me – my heart filled with joy. He responded, “You must have been a great teacher then”. I assured him without a doubt that she was. I am grateful for that moment.

I had amazing teachers throughout my educational career, but Mrs. Clemons set the standard for what a teacher should be. She is one of the reasons that I am the educator that I am today, and I thank her.



Nicki Sanders, MSW, is committed to career development, professional development, and organizational development. As Founder and CEO of Nicki Sanders Leadership Consulting, her mission is simple – to eliminate toxic workplaces by developing skilled, empathetic, and goal-oriented leaders who have the vision, support, and resources to create a culture where business prospers, and employees thrive individually and collectively. Nicki supports high-performing women of color in social work leadership in developing careers that feed their hearts, minds, and wallets. She has an extensive background in nonprofit management leading high-functioning, multi-disciplinary teams, volunteer recruitment and retention, and social impact programming. Nicki is an accomplished professor, coach, trainer, and group facilitator who has combined her gift for authentic relationships, Master of Social Work degree, and over 20 years of diverse work experience to create a life and career aligned with her values and purpose. She is a lover of nature, cupcakes, travel, and 80’s hip hop and R&B music.

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