Most teachers walk into class, Vincent Taylor skates.
On special occasions, as students shuffle into class, Taylor rolls around on his skates to give students a positive start to the day and provide motivation to get through the week. Described by co-workers as a creative, up-beat, and dependable colleague, Taylor brings high energy to the classroom on a daily basis.
Vincent Taylor is a math coach at Cedar Hills Elementary located in Jacksonville, FL and when he isn’t in the classroom, he’s an author.
His passion for writing began when he was a child and first heard music from the Hip-Hop group RUN DMC. From there, he took pencil to paper and started writing music. While he still writes music, in 2000 Taylor started writing his first book, Rhythmic Reading with Rap which was a sing-along educational CD and a reading book, which was released in 2001.
“It was imperative that I write Rhythmic Reading because years later as an elementary teacher, I would find that my students had reading deficiencies that I felt could be addressed through this Hip Hop culture that I, as well as my students, were so passionate about,” said Taylor.
So far, Taylor has published seven books and has received a multitude of awards including the Prestige Award from the Literacy Pros of Jacksonville, the Outstanding Graduate Leadership Award in 2012 from the University of Florida, and the Touching Hearts & Changing Lives Award from the Florida Association of School Social Workers.
According to cornbreadseries.com, he received his B.A in Elementary Education from the University of North Florida and then earned his Master’s Degree in Curriculum & Instruction from the University of Florida.
Taylor’s teaching career began 23 years ago. Originally a reading teacher, during his second year in the profession he was moved to the math position after a new principle was hired. Even though he wasn’t thrilled about the change at the time, he says that it was one of the best things that has ever happened and he’s grown to love math and teaching it.
In 2004, he released the first book in his Cornbread series titled “Cornbread Runs for Class President”. All five books in the series follow the adventures of the main character named Cornbread, his friends Roscoe and Symone, and his family. The characters are meant to be relatable and Taylor incorporates what he sees in the classroom in the books.
“I wanted to create characters that I felt would resonate with my students. For instance, Symone is very studious and Roscoe struggles academically but he’s resilient because he’s always trying to use a large vocabulary even though he always uses it incorrectly,” said Taylor.
Taylor started this series to solve two problems that he saw in the classroom: the lack of a lead male protagonist and the lack of multicultural literature.
“I figured that I could either complain about the situation or I could be a part of solving this void,” said Taylor.
In the past 20 years, Taylor has worked at John Love Elementary, Long Branch Elementary, and Cedar Hills Elementary. All of these are inner-city schools, meaning schools located in an older part of a city that is mainly inhabited by lower class minority groups. He felt that it was important to write for the students he worked with everyday because they needed to see themselves in literature.
Taylor attended Ramona Boulevard Elementary School in Jacksonville. While there, he struggled with reading and said that he “definitely did not want to be that kid who was called on to read in class.”
He believes that if he had more books that had characters that looked like him, his attitude toward reading would have been different. Taylor said that he remembers only reading one book that had a main black character and said that it left a lasting impact on him to this day.
“The only thing I remember is that it was a book about a black cowboy and this was my favorite book. I can’t tell you one word in that book but it was my favorite because I saw me. To this day I would give someone $5000 if they could find this book because it meant that much to me,” said Taylor.
Taylor is also very family oriented and made sure to include a strong family storyline in his books. He did this because he came from a tight-knit family and wanted to showcase a solid black family in literature.
As a child, he would write rap music and perform for his sister Janice. “As a child I remember sitting at the table and Vincent would write a rap song and I would have to listen and critique and of course I’m one of his biggest fans,” Janice said.
Janice is Taylor’s older sister and is an entrepreneur and fashion designer who resides in the Jacksonville area.
She continued by saying that ever since he was little, he’s had a passion for music and writing and in his adult life combined the two to engage students.
“He wanted to make learning so much fun for the children that he taught. He wanted to engage them and make them really excited. He’s done this by introducing music and his books into the classroom,” said Janice.
While talking about her brother, she got a little emotional because he’s “like her baby” and she’s so proud of him. Janice said he’s always been humble and very family oriented. Their family has been in Jacksonville for over 30 years and both Janice and Taylor have lived there for their entire lives and have started families of their own.
Taylor’s co-workers say that there is never a dull moment working alongside him.
“He’s always looking for ways to be creative and get people excited about education. He’s very energetic and entertaining and he makes learning fun. The students always look forward to seeing him because they know he’s going to bring the excitement,” said Stacey Cox, the school counselor at Cedar Hills Elementary.
Even though he’s had a lot of success as an author, Taylor’s passion remains in the classroom.
“There’s no feeling like walking down the hallway of your school and receiving high fives and hellos from students throughout the entire day. They do this because they know you truly care about them and simply took a moment out of your day to get to know them. Trust me, I’ll take being a teacher over being an author any day,” said Taylor.