i’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about how i’m going to set up my new classroom and how i’m going to teach all my subjects and everything else in between. as i contemplate my future as an elementary educator, i can’t help but reflect on all the teachers i had who got me to this point.
i can remember the name of every single teacher i ever had. my teachers are important to me.
first grade in mrs. cropper’s class was where i got my first taste at being a teacher. i remember always wanting to pass papers out and help her with whatever she needed. seriously, i had the fastest hand raise in the whole first grade probably. i wanted to dress like her, be nice like her, and teach like her.
fourth grade is where a lot of magic happened. i met some of my best friends in my fourth grade class, and i also happened to have the best teacher. ms. siefring was artsy, colorful, and the best storyteller. i never realized it until last week or so when i was talking to her, but all of her storytelling certainly paid off — i’m so sure it made me a better writer and speaker, and i can’t thank her enough for that! she showed this amount of patience that i didn’t even know existed. i couldn’t do long division to save my life and she went through every step with me over and over and over. divide, multiply, subtract, bring down, repeat. i hadn’t really needed that kind of attention before in the classroom, and her willingness to help me makes me ever so grateful.
i was definitely able to reflect on that this year while teaching fourth grade and working with groups of students who also struggled with long division. i was reminded why i wanted to be a teacher in those moments.
middle school english was an interesting experience. i remember not being really fond of mrs. crowell’s aig english/language arts class for the three years i had her, but in retrospect i concluded that her class was pretty cool. her project-based lessons and challenging reading assignments definitely intrigued me and kept me on top of things.
i remember loving seventh grade science with mrs. ball. she paired me with the cutest boy in class as my lab partner and her hands-on approach was hands-down the best ever. i can still remember all the major bones in the body and i can never forget my excitement when i experienced my first real lab dissection (that chicken wing stood no chance). i was on-track to be a scientist because her class was so interesting — now that’s a thing of power.
eighth grade was the year i really started falling in love with north carolina history. mr. lambe’s history class was by far my favorite class and i couldn’t help but be drawn into his teaching style. we talked about history and also talked about the future, making our own “dream big” lists (yes, i still have mine, and yes, so far my big dreams have come true). he was inspiring and constantly challenging us not to just be better students, but to be better people.
tenth grade english was the best year of a class i could have imagined! mr. mace was hands down the best english teacher i’ve ever had. i was fortunate enough to have him for the whole year, and i think i learned more in that year of english than i did in any other english course i’ve taken. he made us write about oreos, film reviews, and he also had us write letters to ourselves that we will receive in 2016 (our class ten year anniversary). this is the year i found the strongest passion for writing that i never knew i had. this english class affected my life in more ways than i thought — i started blogging, i chose to do my senior exit project on the cinematography of alfred hitchcock, and i made As on almost all of the papers i wrote at unc chapel hill.
i made a perfect score on my writing test that year, and i’m pretty sure papa mace still owes me a steak dinner for that…
my junior year, i took ap chemistry with mrs. hurley. that was easily the most difficult content i was taught in high school and mrs. hurley always had her door open for help. i had the best time getting to know her as a person since i was lucky enough to have her for honors chemistry the year before. she pushed me to study hard and was one of the most organized teachers i had. she was fun when it was time for fun and she cracked down when we needed to work hard. that kind of balance is something that i found beneficial to myself as a student, and i strive to have that kind of balance in my classroom as well. she taught me to “walk with purpose” wherever i went in the school — consequently, i never needed a hall pass.
for three years in high school, i participated in leadership/student council. our fearless leader, sanchez johnson, constantly pushed me to be better. good enough is neither good nor enough. i learned that leadership isn’t just a position, but a lifestyle. i learned how to work with all kinds of people and how to give a darn good speech. the skills i acquired and honed under the supervision and assistance of sanchez are skills that i will use and continue to perfect for the rest of my life.
i also gained a newfound love for dr. seuss thanks to sanchez.
my senior year i decided to take a class for fun, which was kind of a new thing for me. i took broadcasting with mr. campbell and made music videos and PSAs. it. was. awesome. mr. campbell served as my senior project advisor, giving me cinematography tips and letting me edit my project in his classroom whenever i needed. he listened to me practice my graduation speech a million times and was always willing to listen to a story. i think it’s important for teachers to listen to the stories of their students.
the one class that was a true game changer for me was apush. mr. drake was my teacher, my quiz bowl coach, my men’s basketball game buddy (he announced and i sang the anthem — good times), and probably one of my biggest fans. he was that teacher i went to with good news, bad news, exciting news, and i’m-in-need-of-a-reference news. his class taught me what college was really going to be like — lots of reading and writing and then more reading and writing. i was lucky enough to like reading and writing and in turn fell in love with us history. today, mr. drake is now alex, he’ll be my neighbor in less than a month, and we’re teaching in the same city this fall. we will discuss teaching, get drinks, and participate in trivia. durham ain’t even ready, y’all.
these teachers influenced me such a great deal and ultimately helped solidify my decision to become a teacher. my years at unc chapel hill also proved influential, especially in the education department — julie justice, cheryl bolick, martinette horner, kate allman, janice anderson, melissa miller. these women believed in me, pushed me, and got me to where i am today, which is employed with durham county schools. they inspired me and made me want to be better than my best as a teacher and a person, and i am eternally grateful for that.
teachers are important. i viewed my teachers not just as teachers, but as people. these people were my friends, some of which were like family to me. my fourth grade teacher and eighth grade history teacher both came to my high school graduation and heard me give the jay m. robinson class of 2008 graduation speech. another four years later, i saw my eighth grade history teacher at a social studies teacher conference and my fourth grade teacher came to my college graduation party. these people aren’t just teachers i had for a year in my life — they’re people who are continually teaching me more than just the north carolina standard course of study.
at unc’s school of education, the phrase “teaching transforms lives” is plastered on the windows in the front of the building. i truly believe that there is validity in that statement and i can’t say thank you enough times for all the wonderful teachers i had who helped me get to this point in my life. your support is unmatched, and my gratitude grows by the day.