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Washington Irving Teaching Assistant Breaks Down Boundaries

Kent Washington never believed his actions broke any barriers, until now. The Teaching Assistant at Washington Irving spent four-and-half years playing basketball in Poland after graduating from Southhampton College; he was the first African American player to cross the Iron Curtain.

“I do understand it now,” said Washington in a recent interview. He also explained, “I was also more than a basketball player. I appeared in a cult film called Miś, which means “Teddy Bear” in English.” He recently revisited those days when he received a phone call from a Polish journalist who asked him about his experiences.

Washington is also featured for his groundbreaking achievements in An excerpt from the article appears below:

“I was a novelty there and that bypassed all obstacles,” he said.

Ask Washington if he’d trade his life playing in Poland and later in Sweden for a spot in the NBA, and his "no" is firm.

“Unequivocally, if I had a choice now to be on the New York Knicks or to have done what I did, I’d do what I did," he said. "I would have no guarantee of playing time (in the NBA) and I hated sitting. And I did something historical no other American or black American did.” 

- Journal News 

Washington traded in his basketball for a pen and paper and took on the role of teaching assistant in the Public Schools of the Tarrytowns and now, after nearly 20 years, he is retiring at the end of the month. Washington spent his early days in fifth and sixth grade classrooms and the majority of the time assisting third graders with math.

He said: “I fell in love with it; it is my passion. The challenge was how do I try and simplify the complicated material for them at their grade level.” Washington hopes he met that task.

He also has advice for all the students living in today’s world. “Be the most integrity-filled person you can be, and to do this be respectful and mindful of others.” 

We wish Mr. Washington the best of luck during retirement. To read the entire article featured in the Journal News, please follow this link.