BA in Humanities, 2011; Master of Arts in Teaching, 2013
School of Education
March 1, 2013
Joins School of Education as Managing Editor of AERA Open
“Why in the world would you want to go into teaching? You’re a smart guy, you could do something else that pays so much more money, so why teaching?”
I have had this asked of me more times than I care to remember: and when I think of how many people consider teaching a profession not worth going into, it makes me terribly sad. As romanticized as it sounds, I am not interested in making a lot of money by teaching; I’m interested in pursuing my passion. I mean, sure, if you had asked me when I was a little kid, I would not have told you that I had no idea what I wanted to be when I was all grown up, or I would have told you that I was going to be the real life Batman or a Power Ranger, or something totally awesome! At the time I did not realize that what I wanted to be on a fundamental level was a hero.
So, can a teacher be a hero? Can a teacher make that kind of a difference? Or was the Dead Poets Society a silver screen overstatement? Admittedly I would not feel unaccomplished as a teacher if my students never got up on their desks and referred to me as their captain, but I do want to make a legitimate difference in the lives of my students. I do not want to just help them earn the “A”; I want to help them find confidence in themselves, to believe that education is worth investing in and so is their future. Yes, this sounds like the tag line for a cheesy teaching movie where underdog students overcome all the odds all thanks to their devoted teacher. However, I believe that while my impact would not be worthy of an Oscar, I can make a real difference in the lives of my students.
“Who or what inspired you to be a teacher?” That is the question that usually follows after I answer the first one about my seemingly financially-unsound career choice, and this is where things get a little personal. People ask me this question expecting a simple answer such as (a) a certain teacher had an impact on my life or (b) I had an especially fulfilling experience in which I did some tutoring. However, for me, my inspiration comes from my brother’s and sister’s experiences.
My brother’s story
My brother’s story is not so easily shared. My older brother Charlie was nearly killed by an extremely rare affliction known as Schielder’s Disease. The disease causes the immune system to attack the myelin in the brain, eating away at it and exposing the brain to excess blood flow. This causes the brain to swell and tissue to collapse over the shelf that holds the brain up in the skull. When this happens, the swollen section gets completely cut off from blood flow and the tissue dies. Charlie was supposed to die; and when he did not, he was supposed to be in a permanent coma; and when he woke up, he was supposed to be incapable of basic human functions; and when he defied all medical logic, he came home. He certainly was not the same and the disease did leave him permanently disabled both physically and mentally, but Charlie refused to give up.
Charlie returned to school. Of all the things to give up on, school was an option, and no one would have blamed him for not finishing school. The sad reality was that Charlie would not be able to attend college or enter the workforce. Despite this, Charlie wanted to earn his high school diploma, and he did.
At Charlie’s graduation ceremony I asked my fellow honor escort chain members to stand up with me when they called Charlie’s name. Without hesitation, they kindly agreed. When Charlie’s name was called, he handed his walker off to a counselor at the top of the ramp and walked without any support across the stage. As he did my fellow juniors and I stood up as planned, but then my eyes flowed with tears of joy as the senior class also stood up and started chanting his name. In the parking lot immediately after the ceremony, my father wheeled my brother up to me. Charlie got out of his chair and he gave his crying little brother a hug. I opened my eyes while my head rested on his shoulder to let my burning tears escape my eyes and that is when I saw it: I saw my dad cry for the first time in my life.
My brother is now living at home with my parents. He is my big brother, my guardian, my inspiration.
Reflecting on that night, I realized what a difference education can make when it is coming from teachers who care. The teachers believed in Charlie and truly felt that he deserved an education. I was inspired by this devotion, and it was at that moment I realized I wanted to be a teacher.
My sister’s story
I want to be the kind of teacher who believes in the importance of education for every single student no matter what their circumstances may be. I knew I could have this effect in the field of education as a teacher after seeing what a friend of the family did for my baby sister, Brianna. Normally, I don’t share both my bother’s and my sister’s stories with the people who ask me the aforementioned questions because, after sharing my brother’s story, I usually am too broken up to share this next one. However, since I’m typing, I find that I can handle it. With that said, here’s my sister’s story: my baby sister inspired me with her strength when she was only four years old and diagnosed with lymphoma. She went through chemo losing all of her beautiful raven black hair. She cried at times, but for the most part she faced this adversity with hope. She was about to go into kindergarten when she entered the stage of her chemo treatment that left her immune system completely ineffective. A friend of the family, Robin, who is an elementary teacher, offered to come over every day after school and teach my sister one-on-one so that she would not fall behind. I remember watching Robin work with Brianna and coming at times to tears over how inspirational they both were. Education has many moving parts, but I saw firsthand what a truly dedicated teacher can do. Robin was a teacher who personified selflessness and, in this particular case, love. Robin loved my sister as if she were family. We were not able to pay Robin, and even if we could have paid her, she would never have accepted it. She did what she did because she cared, and I committed to be the same kind of teacher some day. That level of devotion may not be something you have in the very beginning, but I believe that it is something I can build as I continue to strive to be better every day. My sister is now considered cured of her cancer and is a successful student. She is my Angel Baby, my miracle, and my hero.
Pursuing my dream at UC Irvine
I believe that the MAT/Credential program at UC Irvine is the perfect place for me to foster my passion. Having experienced the excellence of the School of Education at UCI through the undergraduate minor program, I came to see that my passion for education would be welcomed and encouraged by the staff and professors of the MAT/Credential program. I feel supported by the professors and staff members as well as by my peers. I am relatively young, but my peers respect me as an equal.
As an energetic and outgoing person, I have had the opportunity to be a student representative, and this has helped me channel that energy into something positive. I am making memories in this short year that we MAT students have together, memories that will stay with me forever. From the first class over the summer to this crucial time when we are all dealing with the stress of the teaching event, I feel like I can call upon my peers for help with lesson planning and class work, as well as for just some general support.
This community was made possible by the positive atmosphere the teachers create and dedicated approach the program employs. I can feel without doubt that the professors and staff members want us to succeed and not just by earning a good grade. They want us to become great teachers. I am honored to have the opportunity to share my experiences with whoever reads this spotlight, because the UCI MAT/Credential program deserves all the kind things I’ve said and so much more!