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Passionate high school English and History teacher inspires young minds

This high school teacher with eight years of teaching experience explains the temptation to quit her difficult job dealing with teenagers, and what keeps her from pulling the plug on this challenging but rewarding career.

What is your job title? How many years of experience do you have in that field?
My job title is English/History teacher at a public high school and I have eight years of teaching experience.

Would you describe what you do on a typical day?
On a typical teaching day, I arrive at the school approximately one hour prior to the first bell – at 7:30 in the morning. I prepare the white board, organize my lessons for the day, do some copying if necessary, and open the doors in case a student needs to make-up tests or other work. I interact with my colleagues and answer any emails I may have.

If you’ve experienced discrimination, in what ways have you responded and what response worked best?
At first, the lack of English language skills was a little problem for me, but it was overcome quickly. I never let these shortcomings get in the way of learning to speak a new language and I used a sense of humor, kindness, and asking for help in my daily life.

Because I am a more mature individual, that is, I am middle-aged female – some of the young teachers have often called me “Mom” affectionately. I look at it as being a compliment rather than being slighted by it. I believe two things: that everyone can learn, and that a person is never too old to learn. I know that my job actually is a benefit to those younger teachers who may not have the life experiences, or the initial maturity to deal with teenagers in a public school. I am of European birth, having immigrated with my family to the U.S.

Where you work, how well does your company do ‘equal opportunity’? Is management white and male? How are minorities perceived and treated?
The school where I work at the present time is located in an area of Arizona where there are many Hispanic students. That being the case, the administration is fairly aware of the need for diversity. The hiring that is done is equitable as far as opportunity for anyone who has the qualifications necessary to be able to teach at a specific grade level. The administration itself is diversified with one Hispanic female and two white males. While there are more white middle-aged teachers both male and female, there are Hispanic and Black teachers to round out the teacher population. The instructors are able to treat each other with respect and work well together.

What don’t they teach in school that would’ve been helpful to you?
One of the things that I did not learn in college that would have been really helpful when I began teaching is planning ahead at least a couple of weeks. Seeing the big picture makes it a lot easier to plan the daily work. Most colleges and universities are so focused on the single lesson plan that they forget to tell you that more than one lesson must fit into a unit of learning. I have since learned to adjust and plan a month ahead. A second thing I have learned is that teenagers in particular, respond to kindness and emotion much more than teens used to. As the old saying goes, you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Even male students are more emotional and wear their feelings on their sleeves more often than not.

How did you get started in this line of work? If you could go back and do it differently, what would you change?
I began in the business of education when I was faced with having to have a job that required benefits and a full year’s salary. I did a review of my education and life skills and realized that with a little push and a few more courses to obtain my teaching credential, I could have that full time job with benefits. After doing some more homework, I discovered that teachers are paid better if they have a Master’s degree. I found a good university where I could complete my course work online. Meanwhile, I was able to supplement my income with a part-time job in sales. The entire process of receiving my degree happened in about a year and a half. I would not have done anything differently. It was a lot of work but felt good when I was done.

On a good day, when things are going well, can you give an example of something that really makes you feel good?

Most of my days as a teacher are good days! What makes me feel really great is seeing the looks on the student faces when the “brain light” goes on and they truly “get” a point that I am trying to get them to see. Or when something makes everyone laugh until it hurts. When the balance of seriousness and fun is reached…that’s when I am feeling at the top of my game. On the other hand, there are days when nothing goes well. Kids come into the classroom with attitudes that disrupt the mood of the others. It’s sort of like an infection that spreads really fast. Kids have bad days too, and those days are the toughest to deal with.

How stressful is your job? Are you able to maintain a comfortable or healthy work-life balance?
Learning how to cope with the stress of dealing with 25 to 35 teenagers on a daily basis means that you have to establish a management style that is right for you from the first day of classes. If you don’t grab a hold of it right from the start, you will have a difficult time. I have written a number of letters of resignation during my time as a teacher – each time I have torn them up when a student makes the sun shine! All it takes is one! I also maintain a healthy work-life balance by leaving school behind when I go home. Kids can become all consuming and you have to be their teacher and not their best friend. They have plenty of “best friends.”

On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate your job satisfaction? What would it take to increase that rating?

On a scale of 1 to 10 I would rate my job satisfaction as an 8 because the pay level for a teacher in the state in which I live is very low and it would be good if there were an increase in the base pay of a teacher. Also, teachers seem to be required to be counselors, mentors, and even stand-ins for parents due to the fact that there are so many dysfunctional families and single parent families where the mother or father is too busy trying to make ends meet, that there is not enough time in the day to pay close attention to the needs of the kids. The burden falls on the teacher to pick up the slack.

What’s a rough salary range for the position you hold? Are you paid enough considering your responsibilities?
The salary range in this state for a beginning teacher is roughly $29,000 for someone with no experience. It goes up to approximately $50,000 for someone with multiple degrees and experience. Most schools here are not year round schools, so there is generally a two and a half months time when you are not working daily.

What’s the most rewarding moment you’ve experienced in this position? Of all the things you’ve done at work, what are you most proud of?

The most rewarding moment of my working life so far is to have had all my students pass the state exams without exception. To see that kind of improvement from the first part of the year when some students come in with major writing and comprehension problems, to being able to pass with flying colors, is truly remarkable.


What’s the most challenging moment you’ve experienced? What would you prefer to forget?

Of course, I would prefer to forget the times that you have to call parents of unruly students, or have to flunk a senior who cannot graduate because of his/her bad grades is sad. All in all, the kids still know that you cared enough to be honest and be the best role model you can be.

What would you tell a friend considering your line of work?

We can all remember the names of special teachers we had in our own school experiences. In fact, many older people can still remember the name of a favorite teacher 50 years later! That speaks volumes. In order to succeed in this field of teaching, you have to have the desire for passing on knowledge in a field that you have passion for, the consistency of sticking with getting a degree and teaching credential in that subject that interests you, and pursuing excellence. I would urge anyone who wants a good job that you can grow with, and likes kids as well, to go into the teaching profession. What other job can you have where you have a 2 months break, lots of holidays and time off, where your professional development is paid for, and you are remembered for the rest of your life?

If you could write your own ticket, what would you like to be doing in five years?
If I could write my own ticket five years down the road, I would most likely want to go into administration or become a curriculum specialist. There are so many opportunities for further growth in the education profession that you can literally pick and chose where you want to be. The jobs in teaching and education can move your heart and can move the heart of a youngster as well. After all, learning is for a lifetime.

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  • BEE

    I loved reading this interview/article. It was very truthful and encouraging for when considering a career in Education in the new future. Thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/suzzette.trotter Audrey Trotter

    The artice actually brought tears to my eyes when you have a teacher who actually love her job and cares for her students.
    She stated that she has written a letter of resignation a number of times but always tears it up.
    I know how she feels because teenagers are a lot to deal with, although Im not interested in being a teacher I am interested in social service/ probation for teenagers and she was an inspiration. Although its a tough road she is still hanging in there. We were all in those teenagers seats before and know what problems are or can at least attempt to figure them out.

  • Leigh Dalton

    I can relate to her because I am also passionate about teaching in the classroom. I I have worked in a middle school for 13 years as a teacher assistant. Teenagers are very hard to deal with. The school I work in is predominantly attended by African Americans. This school has a high poverty rate and most students here live with their mother’s only. She states how teachers have to be mentors, counselors and sometimes stand-in parents for the children. I deal with this everyday. There are lots of times I want to leave and go somewhere else and work but I just can’t leave these children. These children need all the motivation in life they can get. I make it my responsibility to put forth every effort in making their dreams a reality!

  • Shakela

    I relate with this article because, although I want to become an Early Childhood Educator, I have a passion for helping people, and I chose to do so one way by teaching. I agree with this teacher that all people can learn, and seeing that “aha” moment is wonderful! A few summers ago while I was still in high school, I volunteered at a daycare. I was asked to help a couple of children with their work, one of which was on her way to kindergarten and could not recite the whole alphabet or write her own name. By the time I left the daycare, she could write her name, recite her alphabet, and recognize letters and numbers that she did not before. I felt so incredible knowing that just taking not even more than a month to work with these children and not only did I see improvement, but they saw their improvement and enjoyed learning how to do things that they couldn’t before. It is nothing to take a little time to sit and work with children and make sure they understand what their learning, and I just hope that when I do get into teaching I can not only take that time to teach them and help them understand, but I want to also push them to want to learn for themselves.

  • Walter Castro

    This was a great article. Just recently I have begun thinking about getting into education. I am looking to teaching at a community college, but the reason are much the same as this teacher. I want to be the teacher who is there to support the student on their path toward a higher education. I know community college can be a very difficult time because your success is completely dependent on yourself, and there are time that you will not know what you need to do to succeed, making failure unavoidable. I want to change that, I want to improve the transparency of what it takes to become a successful transfer student. This article helped me come up to that conclusion.

  • Darioandrade

    This was a great article that i can connect to. before heading off to college i had to decide whether i wanted to be a mechanical engineer or a science/math teacher. i really enjoy math and science which is why i want to become a mechanical engineer. I was also a certified math tutor so i helped many student with math homework or helping them study for a test. I can also relate to the fact that it feels good when you finish something that was a lot of work, true satisfaction comes from hard work.

    As the teacher stated, a great amount of satisfaction is generated when somebody you mentored comes back and tell you they aced their test and have improved due to your help. I also liked what the teacher said, i remember all those teachers that have shaped my life and have allowed me to realize the relevance importance and beauty of mathematics and scientific inquiry. There are many smart kids out there that just need guidance or a push to become great engineers scientists mathematicians. I would like to be that person who inspires them to pursue science and mathematics. I chose to study mechanical engineering in order to take many math and science classes as well as having a career that can apply both disciplines. later in life i would like to be a math teacher, but for now i will focus on mechanical engineering.

  • http://twitter.com/hadjibeye Social Entrepreneur

    Being an older professional making a transition between fields, I can definitely relate to this powerful article. Education and Health are crucial sectors of a community and the professionals who work in these fields really need to be attended to, since their well-being will bring about a better education system and a better health care system: seriously do we want our children to receive education and healthcare from disgruntled teachers and nurses.
    So in this frame of mind, there should be some serious revisions to the income of this class of professionals (that is the educators class) since healthcare professionals receive sizable income for the most part.
    Being passionate about your profession transpires through your performance and if you really love what you do for a living, not only it reflects on your performance but it also improves your quality of life since you’re happy at least 40 hours a week. (what happens at home can be a different story).
    Thanks

  • Sathya

    I know the feeling of a teacher that influences you with their confidence in what they are teaching but also the fact that they enjoy teaching. I think that the way that someone can learn great things is through a teacher like that, a role model. I have had many teachers in life, and many of my high school teachers pushed me to learn subjects that I would argue, “is a waste of my time” but now that I’m in college I kind of regret telling them off, because those classes that are a waste of my time, are actually the core classes that ground me in college today. I wish that I could meet those teachers again so I can tell them that everything, from what they taught me in the classroom to what they taught me morally, is what makes me confident in my success today.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jayme.deal Jayme Dannen Deal

    I can relate to this article because I want to insprie young minds. Although I am not going to be an English or History teacher, I do want to become a PE teacher and coach. I take teaching children very serious and I have had some success with coaching. I have taught young people the importance of having the right attitude when you approach anything in life and how to respect others. I want to be a good role model for young people and that is why I am going to teach/coach.

  • Deeana Sanchez

    This article is very approachable, it speaks from the heart. I can relate to this teacher’s passion and drive to help students. I work at a school running the before school and after school programs for the students, and while I don’t get paid much I love the experience of working with kids ranging from 4-13 years old. Each one of them teaches me something new, most often they teach me how to be a kid again and have fun enjoying the little things like playing on the monkey bars or playing tag. I also gain a lot when I help them with their homework, I have learned different techniques to helping them depending on what kind of learner they are. I’m very grateful for gaining this experience with kids, and it has made me very passionate about working with kids in the future as a Speech Language Pathologist.

  • Ashle’ Santos

    I feel like this article relates to my life. Our generation is the key to the future. My English teacher teaches us the life that is going on behind us and how it is affecting us citizens in the country. Instead of following the same curriculum every year, he teaches us new things and has us puts it in our perspective. I actually love my English class because he talks to us like we are adults and not little kids. He wants us to be engaged in the class and have many class discussions about Peace Protest and Tolerance. When we have class discussions, we listen to what each of the students have to say about any topic. He has us use our minds and actually THINK. My teacher makes me want to learn more and more each day. However, as we read our books in class and talk about it, we would make personal connections and relate it to our own daily lives. So I believe that my English teacher is passionate about what he does and inspires our young minds.

  • Amanda

    This story speaks to me, because it was my high school English teacher that focused my attention to poetry, Shakespeare, and short stories that somehow open my eyes to the beauty of art in all forms of the medium. At the time she was a younger woman with big blonde hair and in a small town like mine, she was the most beautiful woman I had seen besides on T.V. I noticed for the first time that my English teacher was a truly happy woman, who was single and appeared to have all of her ducks in a row. As a confused, lonely, teenage girl, I looked up to her and trusted what she had to say. We had to have a journal, almost like a diary in class and she would read and respond weekly to my entries. I wrote a lot of poems and short stories and she really seemed to appreciate my thoughts and encouraged me to continue to write. I truly believe that through my writing I became interested in art and I thank and blame her for that.

  • Janae Brown

    Being an African American teenager growing up in my area, many people believed that we would make it as far as middle school. My graduating class consisted of 78 kids and many of us were pushed to do better from our English teacher Andrew Kulak. He motivate us to do better because he hated to see the youth of the school drop out and also end up on the streets like the students before us. He has inspired me to do better and become better. This story is one that I can relate to because I am one of those students who has came from nothing and has had that one teacher give me hope and inspire me to go above and beyond and to perform my best at all times.
    Teachers like this are what make the kids who come from bad backgrounds to have hope that they can become something that they thought were only in their dreams.

  • Kerry Edwards

    This article is amazing. It truly brings to light a great disparity in our beloved country. Teachers are more than just educators or babysitters. It was put best in the article when the interviewee stated “teachers seem to be required to be counselors, mentors, and even stand-ins for parents.” Yet, the salary of a teacher does not come close to fully compensating them for their FULL job description.

    I am the son of a teacher, and I can tell you that teachers, especially those with multiple children, do not have the resources they fully need to live comfortably. I grew up in a single parent household with two other siblings, so that made things even more difficult for my mother to fully support the financial needs that children have. Many of the teachers that I know work another job or two to bring in extra pay, and teach summer school to have some sort of income during the summer months.

    I truly believe that this country needs to put more focus and resources into supporting the many educators, such as the interviewee, who become inspirational and influential in the lives of all of our youth. If we really do care about the future direction of this country, it starts with properly grooming the next leaders of of our country and our businesses and corporations. And that just simply cannot be done with the wages teaching professionals are paid. Schools miss out on great talent simply because people who may want to teach choose another profession because it pays more, and our children are the ones who suffer.

    Thank you to all of the teachers who have stuck it out because of the non-financial rewards you get from being a teacher. You are the reason people like myself, a graduating senior in a top engineering program at a Top 10 university, push so hard everyday to become more successful. You are the inspiration behind every great invention, every great new company, and even the next President of the United States of America. You do not always get the credit you deserve, but do always know that no matter how much grief your students give you, if you get through to and inspire just one student, the domino effect of that inspiration can potentially change the world!

  • Tosha

    This is super awe inspiring, as long as you have the ability to breathe and function there exists the opportunity to grow change and impact the world around you.

  • Tress B

    This story explains the plight of many teachers within America, all worthy of recognition. Although I’m not a professional teacher, I am a student, and I understand how the lack of strong leadership at home can place a burden on the teacher and/or mentor to pick up the slack. However, burden or not, teachers and mentors take on this task and truly succeed at it.

    During my freshman year of college, I entered a predominantly white college with no idea of what I got myself into. Although I was not the victim of outright racism, it was the first time in my life where I actually felt different and out of place. I cried for the first three months alone in my dorm. It wasn’t until a friend brought me into the American Intercultural Center, the multicultural space on campus, that I felt at home. Shawn, an advisor within the center, helped me to truly be able to feel comfortable.

    Shawn was a biracial male, but all of the black kids in the center identified closely with him. It was this man who I personally identified with and was proud to call my mentor. He convinced me into becoming an active member within the school, beginning with Black Student Union and eventually branching out to become much more. I did not grow up with a strong male figure within my life, and Shawn fulfilled that role with pride. He was definitely someone that I will remember throughout all of my years in college. If it wasn’t for his passion for education and helping students, I would not be who I am today.

    Now, I am a part of 10 organizations and/or leadership positions on campus. And to think, it all started with someone who cared enough to show me the right way. To this teacher/mentor, and everyone who takes the time to be someone’s role model, I thank you.

  • Katelyn Linson

    I have chosen to become a teacher because I myself am a product of someone whom I consider to be a wonderful teacher. Not one person can recall their experiences in school without picturing at least one teacher who impacted their life positively. I desire to be that teacher. In the teaching profession your career is defined as; a person who instructs. However, beyond this superficial definition I believe there is a much more.

    I want to show students how extraordinary learning can be by engaging them in the classroom. I will encourage curious, passionate, and exceptional students that will grow into adults who are intrigued by discovery. Maria Montessori said, “Our care of the child should be governed, not by the desire to make him learn things, but by the endeavor always to keep burning within him that light which is called intelligence.” If I as a teacher allow that light to go out in a student then I have failed. I will teach them the skills they need to know to succeed academically, and the skills they will need to love themselves and others.
    This teachers experience is proof that if there are people willing to believe in these kids then they will make a difference in at least one persons life. I believe that my calling in to teach elementary age children. I want to instill in them a love for learning early on in life so that it is something special they can carry with them their whole life. Because, if we have people who are able to learn, and want to learn we would have a world full of people with endless potential.
    -Katelyn Linson

  • Amanda2294

    I really enjoyed this articled because it reminded me of my high school english teacher, Ms. Goldie. As a senior, she was my AP English Literature and Composition teacher. To the best of my knowledge, she did not face any discrimination in the workplace, but I consider her to be role model to her students and to her colleagues.

    Ms. Goldie always came into class with a smile on her face, and she was truly passionate about English, and she constantly pushed us to our academic limits in order to become the best possible writers and students we could be. Of course, there were days when she or a few of the students would be having a “bad day,” but these negative attitudes never lasted long; after all, we’re all human.

    Ms. Goldie is an inspiration to me because she chose to become a teacher out of her passion and love for literature, rather than the monetary benefits that come along with this profession . She once told us that she considered another career that would’ve given her a higher salary, but she said that she would rather have a job that she loves, rather picking a job to simply “make more money.”

    As a future nurse, I know I will receive an adequate salary, but Ms. Goldie taught me to pick a profession that I love. I shouldn’t pick a career because others tell me to or because of alternate opinions. I’m in control of my life, and I control my own destiny.

  • Cha

    This story reminds me not only of the teachers who have
    influenced me, but of all the people who have mentored me and helped me become
    the person I am today. Furthermore, I am reminded of the people who I have
    influenced and took under my wing as mentees through my leadership positions,
    passing on the inspiration to young people developing into leaders of tomorrow.

    During my undergrad, I served as the chair of seven
    multicultural clubs overseeing the activity of the student organizations
    encompassing sixty student leaders. At times, working with groups or
    individuals proved frustrating when people failed to meet deadlines or were
    uncooperative. During these moments, I often felt discouraged and loss sight of
    the purpose for taking up my leadership position. But then individual students
    would come up to me and thank me for taking charge as the head and managing
    order in the midst of the chaos. This reminded me that although plans were not
    always implemented in the proper sequence, I was still providing motivation for
    the rest of the group to move forward and pursue their club activities and
    goals.

    Even after stepping down from my position, I received deep
    respect from my peers who continued to thank me for what I had done and continuously
    sought me for advice or consultation. I realized that although I wasn’t a
    licensed teacher, to these sixty people, I taught them something valuable and
    would leave a lasting impression on their lives to succeed.

  • Cha Yang

    This story reminds me not only of the teachers who have
    influenced me, but of all the people who have mentored me and helped me become
    the person I am today. Furthermore, I am reminded of the people who I have
    influenced and took under my wing as mentees through my leadership positions,
    passing on the inspiration to young people developing into leaders of tomorrow.

    During my undergrad, I served as the chair of seven
    multicultural clubs overseeing the activity of the student organizations
    encompassing sixty student leaders. At times, working with groups or
    individuals proved frustrating when people failed to meet deadlines or were
    uncooperative. During these moments, I often felt discouraged and loss sight of
    the purpose for taking up my leadership position. But then individual students
    would come up to me and thank me for taking charge as the head and managing
    order in the midst of the chaos. This reminded me that although plans were not
    always implemented in the proper sequence, I was still providing motivation for
    the rest of the group to move forward and pursue their club activities and
    goals.

    Even after stepping down from my position, I received deep
    respect from my peers who continued to thank me for what I had done and
    continuously sought me for advice or consultation. I realized that although I
    wasn’t a licensed teacher, to these sixty people, I taught them something
    valuable and would leave a lasting impression on their lives to succeed.

  • LaRoz’ Leggett

    In middle school, I had an English teacher who everyone gave a hard time, mostly because she gave us a hard time. Many students were used to grades being handed to them, as well as teachers holding their hands every step of the way. Most teachers graded their students based on effort or whether or not they turned in the assignments. This teacher, however, graded based on how good she thought the writing was.

    A handful of students switched out of her class and I had begged my parents to let me switch out of her class as well. To my dismay, my parents made me stay in her class. I had never gotten anything below a B in my life. I was mortified, and I loved English! I became more and more frustrated with my grade in her class as the school year progressed. I was one of those kids, and still am, who found it important to have an extremely high GPA.

    As the school year progressed I became closer with this teacher, not because she finally loosened up and stopped butchering my grade, but because she was the only teacher in the whole school who didn’t sugarcoat the truth. She not only helped me with my writing, but life in general; arguments with my peers, life at home, what programs to apply for at the local tech high school. This teacher helped me find myself and see the world for what it really is.

    To this day I am still in contact with this teacher and attend a university close to where she lives. She continues to open my eyes to the real world and has been there every step of the way from my high school graduation to me becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant. I aspire to become a Physician and similar to this story, I too want to give up sometimes, but then I remind myself that its my dream and that everything I’m doing right now, obtaining an education, applying for scholarships to continue my education, are all steps leading to my dream and I know in the end it will all be worth it.

    One day I hope to inspire someone, even if it’s just one person, the same way that my seventh grade English teacher inspires me and the same way you inspire your students. Its teachers like you, the ones that do more than show up to class and teach, that help to push students towards their goals and show them that they can do anything they set their minds to.

  • rene

    As a future teacher I find hope for my future through this article, and I can relate to some of the challenges faced. As a student I did see see many Black/African american teacher, and even fewer teachers who immigrated to this country. I wish to influence my future students especially those of color who are immigrants that they can have a good future. We need more influential teachers who care about all of their students. Teachers who can relate to their circumstances. I had a teacher in High school who encouraged me to read and because she saw the passion in me and helped to build it I was able to be successful through high school and be the person I am today.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cuteandcrazyjewelry Brandon Yarchuk

    I relate to this article really well, for I see examples of peaceful diversity in both my own life and, more specifically, my high school. Everybody at Irmo High School, the one I attend, comes from different walks of life: socioeconomic, ethnic, etc. I have a teacher who is from Germany, there are teachers from all over America, teachers who are African-American, Caucasian, Asian-American, and Hispanic, and all of them are treated well by co-workers and students. Not once have I heard any resentment towards any ethnicity at my high school, and it serves very strongly as evidence that generations to come are going to be more open-minded and loving of each other.

    I also relate to this teacher in that I very strongly believe in, and practice, the pursuit of following what you know will make you happy, and working in the area in which you want to pass knowledge onto others. Pursuing a fashion design major, and facing high odds against my success, I hold on to my strong will and determination because I hold it very closely that you should pursue what ultimately makes you happy and fulfills your life.

  • breez

    bree

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