Very soon my generation will define what the world will be like. It is up to us to make it a better place.
I don’t want fame or fortune. I want to do something meaningful. I want to inspire my community. I want to make a difference. The best way to help shape the future is to become a teacher.
My dad barely graduated elementary school and my mom earned a high school diploma, but my parents never truly realized the importance of an education. My teachers showed me the importance of education by being caring, inspirational, challenging and engaging. They motivated me to be a better person.
Some people think teachers do the bare minimum— come to class, talk for hours, assign busy work, then leave. That has not been my experience. I’ve been lucky to have great role models and I plan to make them proud.
I understand that not everyone learns the same way. I will use different methods to teach my students, so the information is not lost and jumbled with everything else they need to know. Being an educator is more than just teaching, they need to go beyond the textbook and tests, and see their students as more than just an ID number.
What is a “good” teacher? I say it’s the underpaid, exhausted and proud who are great. Teaching isn’t something you get into for the money. It is less than a career and more of a calling. It is something done out of pure love. With the absence of teachers, the world would be dull and unfulfilling. Everyone has a calling and teachers help their students find that.
And it’s not just about teaching what the state mandates, life lessons are important, too. It’s much more than facts and theories. It’s about teaching something that will stay with them, when all else fails.
As Albert Einstein once said, “Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.”
Erin Gruwell is a graduate of Bonita High School. In 1994, she began teaching at Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach. After receiving a class of freshmen who were not motivated to learn, she reached out to them by asking them to keep journals. Writing journals became a place of peace for students and as the journals were shared with their classmates anonymously, students who were once strangers became family. All of her students graduated from high school and some went off to college, something no one expected of them but Gruwell.
Many teachers at Southwestern College are already following in Gruwell’s footsteps. Psychology professor Jan Koontz uses music to teach students different topics. With her method, these topics are easily learned. English adjunct James Wenzell uses different YouTube videos to teach his students critical analysis, which engages them and keeps it interesting. Communications professor Candice Taffolla-Schreiber uses different elements to teach so the learning environment is never the same. Her methods stimulate the mind. Reading instructor June Goodrich never gives lectures. Instead, she uses current events and personal experiences to teach. Her students also use journals to write about what they are learning, which promotes critical thought. History instructor Richard Gibson is very passionate and it rubs off on his students. He fights for what he believes in. When Arizona passed a law in 2010 that banned schools from teaching ethnic studies, like Mexican-American History, Gibson told his class this was wrong. He even went out to Arizona and stood on the picket lines. His passion to do what is right is passed on to his students and he instills the lesson of “practice what you preach.”
These are some of the educators at SWC who are doing more than the bare minimum. They silently work wonders in their classroom every day, without recognition and rarely receiving praise. Teachers have the power to transform failures into scholars, to alter the course of a student’s life and to shape them as individuals. Educators are invaluable, their worth cannot be measured. The community needs to stand with its educators. We shouldn’t be thinking about pay cuts or layoffs, we should be appreciating our educators much more.
Reach Ana Bahena by email at ana.alicia.bahena at hotmail.com