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This profile was last updated on 6/6/05  and contains information from public web pages.

James Edward Feazell Sr.

Wrong James Edward Feazell Sr.?


Pinellas schools

Employment History

  • Teacher
    James B. Sanderlin Elementary School

Board Memberships and Affiliations


  • master , Social Science
    Northeast Missouri State University
  • master , Social Science
    Bethune Cookman College
Web References
Tampabay: NEA to give retired educator King award, 6 June 2005 [cached]
LARGO - James E. Feazell Sr. was born in Mississippi when Mississippi was, well, Mississippi - at least for black folks.Separate but unequal.
He came into the world 58 years ago in a black-only hospital.Later, his folks moved to Pinellas County, which for African-Americans was only marginally better than Mississippi.
James E. Feazell always tried to obey his mama.He still does, in fact.But he refused to accept the inevitability of racism.
That is one reason that next month, he will travel to Los Angeles to accept the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Award given by the National Education Association.He will be the first Floridian so honored.
Among the first black teachers at Largo High School, Feazell, who taught social studies, helped develop a human relations council, founded a Black Culture Club and taught the first African-American history class.He started a black baseball league and a black Boy Scout troop, and he helped students apply for scholarships, choose colleges and find jobs.Later, as a recruiter for Pinellas schools, he was responsible for hiring 648 black teachers in a decade.Even after retiring in 2003, he started a free tutoring program to help students pass the FCAT.
Feazell was a teacher of second chances, says BeBe Hobson, a former student who is now director of a Christian youth group.
When James had no money for high school graduation, a white lady showed up like an angel and took him shopping.
James Feazell's future wife, Gwen, lived four doors down.They met when she was 13 and he was 15.
By eighth grade, Feazell knew he wanted to be a teacher.They helped the most people.After graduating, he won a full scholarship to Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach.
Feazell gazed back at the sea of white faces.
It was 1968, and he was taking an exchange class at Stetson University.He was the only black person in the room.
The Bible told him he could do all things through Christ.But he couldn't help but remember how his teachers said whites were better students.
When he got back his first test, he didn't look at his grade right away.He scanned the room.Some of his white classmates scored Cs and Ds.He recalls his grade was an A or a B.
Students were students, he realized.It had nothing to do with skin color.
But he never imagined it was possible to do anything to change decades of injustice, not until he saw the sacrifices the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was making for civil rights.When King was assassinated, he wept in frustration.
"When I get back to Largo," he decided, "I'm going to start making changes in my village."
Feazell was only 21 when he started teaching at Largo High in 1969.The school recently had been desegregated.
Crowds of angry whites demonstrated at schools elsewhere.Racially charged fights broke out at Dixie Hollins and Boca Ciega high schools.Black students, frightened, didn't know what to expect.But many of them already knew Feazell.He was their ally.
Feazell became a master at working the school system.He loosened height and weight restrictions that had the effect of excluding some black girls from cheerleading.He started a Little League for black boys.He founded a Black Culture Club and helped schools such as Dunedin, Osceola, Seminole and Gibbs High introduce African-American history in their curriculum.
"The one way you kill people is to take their history," he told students."They took smart Africans from Africa.They brought them over because they knew they would W-O-R-K.You can't say we won't work; we worked 300 years for free."
When teachers sensed potential problems, they would meet with students to talk things out.Feazell told black students they needed to get help from white folks to succeed.He told white teachers that black students who acted up in class wouldn't turn violent; they were just being loud.
Feazell asks Jasmine Smith.
Jasmine's parents forced her to join the tutoring program founded by Feazell.She had failed the FCAT by 17 points.Feazell would pull her away from her friends.He would tell her not to talk to anyone.Pray.Study.Sit in the front row.Do your best.
After finishing Feazell's program, she passed the FCAT - by 2 points.
Feazell started the free program in 2003, to help Ridgecrest students improve their FCAT scores.If a student has a problem learning, there's a reason, said Feazell.
"Find out how the kid learns," he said."Find out about the kid's background."
Tijuana Diarra, 28, now a teacher at James B. Sanderlin Elementary School, watched some of her former classmates end up in jail or drop out of school.But Feazell pushed her to attend college, writing her reference letters and notarizing documents, checking on her through friends, aunts, even professors.
"Every year, all four years, that smiling face encouraged me to keep going," Diarra said."He said if you make it, I'll be there for you."
Some people love teaching, Feazell says.But he loves the people he teaches.
News Releases 2005 Archive [cached]
Washington, D.C. -- Largo, Florida, resident James Edward Feazell, Sr. was selected by the National Education Association (NEA) to receive the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Award for leadership and perseverance in achieving human and civil rights goals.
Feazell will join 10 other civil and human rights recipients who work tirelessly to promote social justice and dignity for all citizens at an awards ceremony in connection with NEA's Annual Meeting in July.
When test scores can effectively decide a student's future, the retired social studies teacher could not stand by idly when 76 percent of black students in Pinellas County scored below grade level on the state-required Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) in math.In 2003, Feazell offered free tutoring three times a week to nine students in his neighborhood.Of these students, eight passed the FCAT.
Feazell formed a partnership with several local schools and created the "Bridging the Achievement Gap" program that helped 45 students prepare for the FCAT and other standardized tests, improve reading and vocabulary skills, and get guidance in applying for college.
The program has since grown to serve 250 students.Last year, 95 percent of the students passed the FCAT and 83 percent are expected to go onto college.Feazell's motivation to tackle the minority achievement gap can be traced to his rearing in the racially divided metropolitan area of Pinellas County."I had teachers and preachers and a momma who helped me," said Feazell."I do whatever I can for everybody, especially educationally."
Feazell attended segregated schools, graduated from Bethune Cookman College and Northeast Missouri State University with a master's in Social Science.He began teaching at the newly integrated Largo High School in 1969 where he founded the Black Culture Club, the Logos Club, and the Human Relations Club.
He began an African American history program for five county schools, founded the Florida Future Educators of America program, a free clinic, and a spiritual-based basketball league.Feazell also provides role model and mediation group counseling.
James Edward Feazell Sr., Largo, FL: Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial AwardThe Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Award is given for leadership and perseverance in achieving human and civil rights goals.Feazell formed a partnership with several local schools and created the "Bridging the Achievement Gap" program that helped 45 students prepare for the FCAT and other standardized tests, improve reading and vocabulary skills and get guidance in applying for college.
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