School of Education
September 1, 2011
“My life experiences helped me realize that I was meant to be a teacher.”
“A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.” (Mark Twain)
In the back on my mind I have always thought that some day I would be a teacher. However, my journey to get here has been long (longer than I would have liked sometimes) and filled with experiences that have shaped who I am and, indirectly, helped me realize that I was meant to be a teacher.
I have held an array of jobs in my life, and as I reflect back on them I realize that they have given me the opportunity to teach or help someone learn.
One of the earliest memories I have of embracing the satisfaction from watching someone understand something, or “get it”, was while I was coaching volleyball camps when I was in high school. I recall on a number of occasions watching young volleyball athletes make a good pass or have the right timing to hit the ball properly. I enjoyed that feeling as my instruction and encouragement helped a player succeed. I could teach players a certain skill, help them get better, and then watch how their accomplishments put smiles on their faces. It was moments like this that unknowingly set a foundation of teaching for me.
After graduating from the University of Oregon with a degree in psychology, my first “real world” job was working at a group home for abused children called Olive Crest. I recall a number of occasions tutoring residents when they finally understood a concept or worked through a problem. It was not always easy, but the feeling of accomplishment in their faces was rewarding. It amazes me that I can still feel the sense of satisfaction I got, like it was yesterday. Without realizing it at the time, those moments built on that foundation that has led me where I am today. However, after Olive Crest, my teaching path was by no means set in my mind. I still had other waters to test.
I do not like to leave a rock unturned, and this has led me to try my hand at various jobs throughout the years — jobs that have provided me with the opportunity to teach in some way or another. While working on private yachts, I had the opportunity to help out at an orphanage in Cancun, Mexico during my free time. I taught the kids English and did my best to make their days brighter by spending time with them.
After a wonderful experience in the boating world I came home and obtained my license to work as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Working as an EMT I assisted instructors who taught adults and young people critical CPR and first-aid skills. Regardless of the job, I always found an opportunity to teach something and savor the satisfaction I got from seeing the outcome of my efforts. Again, these opportunities unknowingly groomed me to become an educator.
It was about this time that I decided to go back to school and applied to graduate school for physician’s assistant. I was required to retake a few classes because a number of years had passed since I took them as an undergraduate. One of the classes was a biology class and the other was a chemistry class. It was these two classes in particular that were the impetus that ultimately led me to choose a career in teaching. My biology professor, Dr. Huntley, was instrumental in helping me realize that I am a science nerd and that appreciation for the world around me is essential. I fell in love with biology/science.
As I mentioned, I had to retake a chemistry class as well. While taking the chemistry class I tutored some of the other students, which helped me to understand the material more. But even more, it sparked that old feeling I had felt so many times before from teaching. I was finally putting it together. I could combine my passion for science and the satisfaction I got from teaching it to other people. I could teach science to young people and help them to develop a passion for it!
It has been ten years since I graduated from college, and I am preparing to embark on probably my most exciting endeavor. Why did I wait so long? Many of my college friends followed the traditional academic track. They completed their undergraduate work in four years and then went on to graduate school. I did not. Often times I have thought about why I did not go the traditional route and that maybe I screwed up and made decisions that were not beneficial for me. But then I catch myself. I look back at all the amazing experiences and opportunities I have been afforded and how they have indirectly led me to a teaching career. Those experiences allowed me to discover that I was truly meant to teach and the worry of whether I did it the “right” way has disappeared.