TOPEKA (KSNT) – A couple of years ago a Topeka man made his first TV debut when a camera crew showed up at his Topeka high school ‘undercover,’ and now he’s on a mission to use his story to inspire others.
The show Undercover High might ring some bells around Northeast Topeka. It was an A&E series that was filmed in 2017 and aired in 2018. It’s about adults going undercover in high school to see how much has changed since they graduated. The high school they secretly attended was Highland Park High School.
D’Andre Phillips made a big impact on people with his story as they watched from home. Thanks to Undercover High, it helped him come to terms with who he is and what he’s been through, now paying it forward.
Today he goes by Mr. Phillips. He’s a 7th-grade math teacher at Eisenhower Middle School in the Topeka Public School district. The same district he grew up in is now the one he wants to help change.
“That’s my mission while I’m here,” he said. “Is to make these kids feel safe, make them feel heard. And also, get them more confident in mathematics.”
Phillips is different than other teachers besides the fact he was on a tv show. He’s been through a lot of hard times growing up in the city, including being the youngest of eight children to a single mother.
“We’ve been homeless maybe three or four times growing up,” he said. “But, all in all, my mom made sure that we had what was necessary. She was a hard-working woman who, you know, was dealt not so good cards but she did the best that she could with each of them. She’s honestly my superhero.”
At 18 years old, he was living on his own. He was also enrolled in the military and getting ready to be the first person in his family to go to college. The show was the last thing on his mind. He eventually changed his decision to join the cast, which in turn changed his life. It was because of this chapter he decided to become a teacher to help other kids become the best version of themselves.
“I don’t want it to be about me and fixing my life,” Phillips said. “I want it to be about fixing the system, so that way others can create a pathway to their goals and success.”
Knowing he would be the adult in their corner in the same way the undercover students and his teachers were for him.
D’Andre Phillips said he wasn’t always confident in his math skills until a teacher encouraged him to believe in himself. Fast forward years later, he’s doing the same now for his students who might struggle with math.
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