When Derrick Kimbrough was growing up on Chicago’s South and West Sides, he loved school so much that he’d often play school in his free time with his cousins. In each skit, Derrick insisted on acting out the role of the teacher by performing a lesson to his eager students. Decades later, Derrick transformed that early love of school into a career.
After having attended and graduated from Chicago Public Schools (CPS), Derrick now serves as an assistant principal at Skinner North Classical School. Derrick is also finishing up his fourth degree, a Doctorate of Education in Urban Education and Leadership at University of Illinois Chicago.
“What I’m proudest of is I consider myself a lifelong learner,” Derrick said. “I’m always thirsty for learning more and am always looking for something to grow into or learn more about.”
Derrick joined AIDS Foundation Chicago (AFC)’s Board of Directors this year after reflecting on what he could contribute to the organization as an educator, leader and HIV-positive gay Black man.
Diagnosed with HIV in 2010, Derrick said he was fortunate to have had access to adequate health care that enabled him to access medicine and treatment quickly. His late cousin, by contrast, lacked the same resources and later died of AIDS-related complications.
“I feel like I’m just indebted to AFC in making sure that we do all we can, to make sure we help those who do not have,” Derrick said.
Prior to serving as a school administrator, Derrick worked as an educator in CPS for nine years, a period he remembers as the best years of his life. A lover of kids, Derrick enjoyed making learning fun for his students, enabling them to learn in a fun, supportive environment.
He entered the field of education after working as a community relations coordinator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). There, he used his Master of Public Administration from the University of Missouri-Columbia and Bachelor of Arts Minor in Communications from Rust College to keep communities in the Midwest informed about environmental matters in their neighborhoods. He developed fact sheets, set up public meetings and had conversations with community members.
After eight years with the EPA, Derrick began to think about what was next for him. He was curious about teaching, so he acquired a substitute teaching certificate and utilized his off days and vacation time to explore education. At the end of his first day substitute teaching, he knew he wanted to become an educator.
“It was the kids,” Derrick remembers. “They made my experience fun. At the end of the day, I was like ‘wow.’ Here, I was walking into an environment I knew nothing about, yet I felt so welcome and so comfortable. I felt at home with those students.”
Derrick went on to acquire a Master of Arts in Elementary Education and Teaching at National Louis University and began his professional journey at Chicago Public Schools.
Outside of work these days, Derrick enjoys enhancing his leadership and communications skills with Toastmasters International, a community that allows individuals to practice public speaking alongside other dedicated leaders at routine meetings. On a typical weekend, Derrick can be found at a virtual Toastmasters meeting, with his immediate family or just relaxing at home by himself.
When asked if there was one message he’d like to share with the AFC community, Derrick said: “One size does not fit all. When we learn that everyone is as unique and quirky as they are, we learn that we are not all alike. We have to really be able to come to the table and accept others for who they are. One size does not fit all.”
This story is a part of our ongoing series commemorating World AIDS Day 2020, a time to remember those lost to AIDS-related complications, celebrate how far we’ve come, look to the future, and celebrate those living with HIV. Learn more about some other members of AFC’s community here.