In light of Teacher Appreciation Week starting next week, I share with you an essay I wrote for an application I completed recently. Here are my personal beliefs on education, as well as what has influenced me and shaped me into the teacher I am today. Words cannot express the gratitude I have for the support given me throughout the years, especially this year as I am humbled and honored to represent my school as their Teacher of the Year. I dedicate this to all of my teachers; I wouldn’t be where I am without each of you.
When I was in fourth grade, I hated long division. My confidence in math was low and I dreaded the nights when I had to drag my math book home and do the even numbered problems (why didn’t they put ALL the answers in the back of the book?!). On the brink of tears at my desk and struggling through yet another math worksheet, my teacher called me over to her table, sat with me patiently, and walked me through every step of every problem on the page. She praised my efforts and gently redirected my misunderstandings, and it was in that moment I knew I wanted to be like that. I wanted to help people, I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives, and there was no better way to do that than to become a teacher.
In my teaching career, I have learned many things: this is the most difficult job in the world, yet also the most rewarding. I fully believe that there is no greater feeling than to watch a child grow under your care as a teacher. With every progress monitoring measure, every rigorous text discussion, every project I do with my students, I am filled to the brim with joy and pride for the learning successes that they have made along the way. Watching the ‘lightbulbs’ go off, challenging student thinking, and witnessing students coming out of their shells into a bigger world are just a few of the perks of my job. For each moment I feel exhaustion, there are many more moments like those aforementioned that warm my heart and remind me why I work so hard and stay up so late: watching children grow not only as learners, but as young citizens who are part of a community that extends beyond just my classroom.
It is an incredible honor to teach the children I do. I adore each and every child in my classroom, past, present, and future. I expect their best, and in return they deserve my best — this is the drive that pushes me constantly. I believe that every child can learn and that every child has a gift to share with others. I believe a classroom should be student-centered and filled with real world opportunities for students to show their learning. I believe in transparency in the classroom and letting my students know when I have made mistakes and how I go about learning from those moments.
My ultimate drive as an educator is to instill a love of learning in my students. I don’t just want to teach to standards, but rather create lifelong learners. I am always up for a challenge and am willing to try many research-based practices with my students. I am passionate about curriculum development and had an amazing opportunity as a Kenan Fellow last summer to write an integrated space unit for my students. Currently, I am using a blended model approach to learning in my reading blocks, and my project based learning units include projects with authentic audiences and experiences for my students to prepare them for their futures.
In my time at The University of North Carolina, I went back and forth with a few majors before deciding on education. I thought that choosing teaching came too naturally to me, and I didn’t want to make a rash decision before committing to something so serious. That’s when I realized that this isn’t just a profession that you choose to study; rather, it is a lifestyle that chooses you, and I am blessed beyond measure to have the passion that I have for teaching.
The night before my very first day as an educator, my teacher from fourth grade called me to give me a pep talk. At that moment I truly understood the impact a teacher could have on students, and that is a moment for which I can only hope I will have with one of my students someday.