Since elementary school, I have been inspired by passionate teachers, and their influence resonated with me through middle school and high school. Through my parents, husband, and children I have acquired an approach to diverse learning situations, furthering my understanding of how students learn differently. The economy of my local community has struggled, and the subsequent rise of poverty, drugs, and teen pregnancy has urged me to help young adults become more successful through education. In addition, my background as a nurse for 35 years has allowed me to see students, as I have patients, through a personal lens. There are many factors that have influenced me in becoming a teacher.
At an early age, my own schooling experience was heightened by teachers who cared for each individual student. Not only did they encourage me to do my best, but they found value in all of my cohorts; this has been a model that I have followed within my own teaching career. Just as they most likely felt, I too feel a great sense of pride being mentally and physically exhausted at the end of a school day. If my own teachers held such positive inspiration I should be able to as well.
My parents pushed me hard to do my best, inciting often that “hard work pays off”. One of my sons was a valedictorian and the other has dyslexia, meaning the learning abilities of both were so extremely varied that it taught me to aid them in a multitude of ways. Seeing how dedicated I was to helping our children, my husband guided me towards teaching. Family has been paramount to my success as a teacher.
Because I live within a community that has suffered high job loss, there has been a rise in poverty, substance abuse, and teen pregnancy. As pointed out by Jeanne Brooks-Gunn in a comprehensive study from 1992, “…the probability of [drop out] rose for both whites and blacks as the proportion of low-income neighbors increased” (Brooks-Gunn 36). Seeing the amount of adversity in students from these demographic backgrounds is astounding; their dispositions have impassioned me to help them not only prepare for college and the job market but enhance their life skills. Mentoring clear communication, determination, ethics, and cultural diversity has greatly affected the students’ degree of success and has influenced my role as a teacher.
Being a nurse for 35 years has taught me a level of empathy that prepared me for teaching. For twelve years I have been a Health Science Technology Education teacher, helping students obtain college credit and certificates in CPR/First Aid. I am also the coordinator and instructor for the nursing assistant program which consists of high school students between the ages of sixteen and eighteen and teaching the same program for four years at a local community college. The parallels between nursing and teaching have allowed me to merge the two into a career I care so deeply about that it has nurtured success.
After being nominated for teacher of the year by the John D. Rockefeller Career Center I have begun to look back on a long list of influencing factors that have contributed to me becoming a teacher. My earliest teachers and their dedication to individual students were essential to developing my teaching style. Family and the importance of empathy in varying learning situations have taught me patience. Community and the success of young adults through their education inspire me to guide them in the right direction. The similarities between my career as a nurse and as a teacher have offered me a unique approach to understanding students. I treasure the many things that have positively affected my role as being a teacher.
Brooks-Gunn, Jeanne, G.J. Duncan, and J.L. Aber. Neighborhood Poverty: Context and Consequences for Children. New York. The Russell Sage Foundation. 1997.