FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) – From special education teacher to the first African American superintendent, Dr. John L Colbert’s career spans over four decades with Fayetteville Public Schools.

Dr. Colbert has served several roles in the school district over the years, ultimately being named superintendent in 2018.

“Look, I was a special education teacher, I was a regular teacher, I was a principal, I was an associate superintendent for elementary education and an associate superintendent for support services,” Colbert said. “I was elated, even cried, when they announced I was superintendent. It was great because of the fact that it was in Fayetteville, Arkansas.”

Becoming the first African American to lead the school district had its challenges. But, Colbert said he has taken each hurdle in stride.

“Just like with anything, you have to prove yourself,” he said. “You will always have some people who will not accept you for who you are. I believe in myself. I believe in what I stood for and I knew I could do a job and work with people.”

He said some of the little moments, have made the tough times worth it.

“I had one student who I taught in sixth grade at Bates Elementary School and she did this nice little story on me and it was a surprise where she said, ‘I was her favorite teacher,’ and ‘greatest black person in her life,'” he said.

Colbert said he hopes people remember him as a selfless servant who believed in making sure every person was respected for who they are.

“My blood is red just like everybody else,” he said. “I am not a big bad man, I am just a teddy bear who loves people and that’s a typical black person. We need to get beyond the stereotypes. I think hopefully myself and other African Americans are setting that example.”