What made you decide to become a teacher?
I grew up with only one person in my family who went to college, my aunt Joan who was a 4th grade teacher. She allowed me to help her get her room ready in the summer, put up bulletin boards, arrange the classroom library, and grade papers. She would take her guitar to school, dress up in historical costumes, and use art throughout the curriculum. She clearly loved her job and inspired me to become a teacher. Later, my high school English and debate teacher, who had also been my mama’s teacher, inspired me to study literature and become certified to teach English.
What’s the most worthwhile part of being a teacher?
The relationships with students and the impact I can have on their lives is the most worthwhile part of teaching. Many of the students I teach come from lives of trauma and poverty, so I strive to make my classroom a place of safety, kindness, and joy. Public education is our vehicle for making the world a better place, and that is why I keep passionately doing what can sometimes be an overwhelming job.
What can be done to better appreciate our teachers?
Trusting and treating us as professionals would be a great start. I was in the top percent of my high school’s graduates and my peers are now scientists, engineers, attorneys, doctors, and college professors. I chose to go into teaching despite the lack of upward mobility and financial reward. More people like me and my peers would go into education if it were respected like those other professions.
What’s one piece of advice you have for aspiring teachers?
Remember to be kind and don’t take things personally. Everyone is fighting a hard battle and the prickliest kids are the ones who need the most love. Fight for what you know is right and understand when to just smile and nod, then do what you know is best for your children. Be yourself and show vulnerability to your students. They need to know you are a real human who cares for them.
Editor’s note: This Q&A was originally published on Governor Cooper’s Medium website.