Plantersville educator loves politics and helping others

Chevelle Champ in Trenicka Darden-Gillon's sixth-grade class at Plantersville Middle School.

Chevelle Champ came about her vocation and her avocation naturally. The case manager for the special education department at Plantersville Middle School comes from a family of educators: “Every school I attended had one of my aunts who taught. Three were special ed teachers,” said Champ, a Natchez native. “And I love politics. My uncle, Phillip West, was the first black mayor of Natchez.” Champ currently serves as membership chairman for the Lee County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, a position she has held the past couple years; she said more than 60 people have become NAACP during those two years. She started working with the organization three years ago. “Most of the time when people are complaining about the issues, I ask them what they are doing about it,” Champ said. Then she springs the membership request on them. During recent summers, Champ has worked with the Hunger Coalition to distribute food to students out for the summer vacation, when they aren’t receiving breakfasts and lunches at school. She said last summer, due to COVID, the meals were distributed door to door. At her church, New Dimension Community Church, Champ teaches Bible study to middle school students on Wednesday nights. She also tutors language and reading to “all ages and grade levels” of students. Champ joined the Sigma Gamma Rho sorority in December. The group’s motto is “Greater Service, Greater Progress.” She described the organization as about being of service: “It’s been really uplifting,” she said. “I have really enjoyed working with others.” Champ’s decision to become a teacher came after she became a mother at the age of 18; in order to provide the son a decent upbringing, she decided to seek an education. She began her quest for a degree at Alcorn State University, near her home in Natchez, but completed her bachelor’s in special education at Ole Miss. She has been in education 23 years, the past 18 of them in Lee County Schools. Her motivation to teach special education came not only from her aunts who taught in the discipline but also from something much closer to home: “My son, now 31, was in special education and I was in denial,” she said. Today, Champ has 42-43 students in the PMS Inclusion program; those students attend regular classes but have learning disabilities for which they require a separate, periodic class where they are tutored in mathematics computation and reading comprehension. Inclusion students are not as severely handicapped as some special education students: “Most of them are okay with it because they don’t want to be known for being behind,” said Champ. She said that some of the Inclusion students graduate from high school but, if they don’t, they are usually working somewhere. “I go into Dollar General and see them working there,” said Champ. “One told me he is working at Toyota.” For the past eight years, Champ has organized the program at PMS for Black History Month. This year’s theme is “African Americans: Shaping Our Future.” Due to COVID restrictions it will be a “wax museum” presented by the school’s fifth graders. They will research African Americans renowned in four categories: Science, Entrepreneurship, Entertainment and Government. The participants will dress as their chosen character and be videoed making their presentations; the resulting program will be streamed onto the school’s Facebook page – “Plantersville Pirates” – on February 26. Champ has three children and five grandchildren. In her leisure time, she works in politics and loves basketball. And, yes, Chevelle Champ was named after the car: “My grandfather drove a Chevrolet Chevelle when I was born,” she said

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