Hard Work Equals Great Success: Dr. Collingwood


Louraine Bouraima, reporter

Everyone who knows Dr. Collingwood can recognize that he is a very passionate teacher in every single way, not just about his subject. Charles Collingwood was born in Trinidad in the Caribbean, and his journey is a very interesting one. He left Trinidad when he was 15 years old, going to live in the US Virgin Islands where he finished high school. Right after that, he went into the military for four years and traveled the world.

He started college at 22 years old at the University of the Virgin Islands where he studied and got a degree in agricultural science and where he also met his lovely wife, who he describes as his “college sweetheart”.  Then, he went over to the University of Hawaii where he got his bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics, then back to the Virgin Islands to work as a researcher at the university.

Dr. Collingwood is the official math department chair for Sahuaro.  His love was always for researching, but the way he got into teaching was that he left his job to support his wife because she applied to nurse practitioner school, so he decided to leave his job to spend more time at home and help raise their five kids. While supporting his wife’s ambitions and being an involved father of five, he began substituting on the side, where he found his love for teaching, saying, “I ended up teaching, which felt like a gift because sometimes we have our plans but life changes what we planned to do.”

Dr. Collingwood is the first one in his family for generations to receive the highest level of education there is, and that is something he is most definitely proud of. He received his master’s in teaching mathematics, then went on to get his Ph.D. after being inspired by his wife who got a Ph.D. in nursing before him, and now teaches at the U of A. Education is important to him because, in his background, his parents and grandparents didn’t have the opportunity to be educated  He said, “It was a deep sense of accomplishment for me because of all the Black people that can look at me and see that they can do it too.”

He doesn’t see it as a personal success, but as a racial success. Dr. Collingwood strives to be an inspiration for everyone, but especially for the students who look like him in an academic setting and that can see him and feel like they too can do it despite all the odds against them throughout their journey for success. He said, “I grew up in a time where rapping your black culture was important.” Coming to the United States as an immigrant, he began to become culturally aware just in high school in the seventies, saying, “I had a vision and I felt as a Black man I had a purpose and I wanted to full fill that purpose.”

What drove him was never forgetting his roots – he knew the history of the people that looked like him in the west, and he was ready to overcome that and accomplish his goals. He clarified that representing as an Afro-Caribbean drove him: “Nothing is difficult for me because I know what difficulty is, I know the sacrifices of people before me.  Nothing is difficult, it just takes some work.” Then, he went on to say that he felt like real difficulty was his ancestors working on plantations from sun up to sun down without getting paid, that those were the sacrifices made for him to be where he is at right now.

He described his role as a teacher by saying, “I know what’s ahead for the students, I see it as there’s this train track and there’s a train coming and I see students playing on the train tracks and I can hear the whistle blowing and the lights flashing, but they can’t see that train so it’s my job to teach them to see that train so they can get off the train track.” From that alone, we can conclude that Dr. Collingwood is an extraordinary teacher, a true inspiration, and maybe even the best teacher Sahuaro High School has ever had.