Educator Of The Month: Ina Cheatham

Severna Park Middle School


Ina Cheatham could have been in scrubs, working in hospitals, but instead she landed in schools, educating the next few generations of kids.

Whichever career she chose, she knew she wanted to help people, just like her mom, who was a special education teacher.

“She has always been a kind, gentle people person,” Cheatham said of her mom. “She and I have pretty much the same personality. It was either be a nurse or a teacher. My dad is a doctor, and I can’t stand blood, so that left teaching.”

Cheatham taught at a magnet school and later went to Chesapeake High School in Pasadena. Since 2007, she has taught ninth grade, and since 2021, she has taught at Severna Park Middle School.

“I’m kind of a silly Billy, but not in a way where the kids don’t respect me,” Cheatham said. “I’ve always been aware of the music they listen to, their jargon, their games, because it keeps me in their world. I don’t want them to see me as their friend, but I’m invested in them.”

Now in her 24th year of teaching, Cheatham has many diverse learners and wants every student to succeed. Her peers and the administrators at the school see her enthusiasm daily.

“At Severna Park Middle, it is our mission to challenge students to think critically and solve problems independently,” said Dennis Kelly, principal of Severna Park Middle School. “Ms. Cheatham does just that for her students every day. She has created a classroom environment that challenges her students to grow but also supports them when they fail. She is always willing to help her colleagues and collaborate around an issue that arises.”

One of her favorite parts of the curriculum is having the class read a fiction or nonfiction book at the end of the quarter. Their next book is “Hatchet.”

“I get to have more discussions with the kids and connect to the kids’ lives,” Cheatham said. “I’ll ask, ‘How are you like this character or not like this character?’ The book reading lends itself to more conversations.”

Said she will do whatever she can to supply the kids with what they need, but it’s nice to have so much support from the Severna Park Middle School community.

“I am the only African American teacher at the school. Being an odd man out racially, I don’t feel that way at all,” Cheatham said. “I feel embraced by the parents, the kids and the community.

“It’s just a warm feeling that I’m definitely not judged by the color of my skin but by the content of my character,” she said, citing the famous Martin Luther King Jr. quote.

Cheatham wants to retire at Severna Park, and she has words of wisdom for anyone else who wants to be a teacher.

“You definitely need to have an open heart and empathy,” she said. “You have to understand that no day is going to be like the next. I cried every day as a teacher for three months. Find a group of people you can trust, pour your heart out and they won’t judge you. You need a support team on a daily basis.

“Don’t take anything personally that these kids bring to you,” she added. “Don’t judge the kids, because you can’t control their environment and the way they are raised.”

As long as her teaching career continues, she will continue to be invested in each student.

“I have 11 grandkids, so kids are my whole world,” she said. “I want them to be kind, have empathy and be productive citizens.”

Cafe Mezzanotte is a proud sponsor of Educator of the Month. To nominate a teacher, guidance counselor, principal or other educator, email


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