As an educator, there’s nothing greater than hearing students say how much you have impacted their lives. Most of us understand that this is a life of service and we definitely don’t commit to this career for the money. We understand that there will be “tough cases” to solve with each new group of students and we jump at rising to the challenge of getting those students to engage and meet our academic expectations. I have learned so many lessons from my students over these few years and my daily prayer is for God to show me ways to be a source of encouragement and support to touch the lives of those who will touch the lives of people, and in many cases children, to come. But I have to admit that there are moments where it feels tough to be in education: When I see the stats of our students in science and math. When I see my check compared to a lot of careers knowing that we are the ones teaching the concepts needed in all of those other careers. When there are difficult students who won’t do the work but express entitlement to a passing grade for some reason.
I saw many of my teacher friends posting their teacher stats and I sat for a moment in reflection to consider my own stats. I began teaching my own class in the last semester of graduate school in Illinois (not sure how I did that, finished lab experiments, and wrote my dissertation) and the first lesson I learned from that experience was that I wanted to engage directly with as many students who looked like me as possible so I looked for positions at HBCUs. Beginning with my first full-time position, here are my teacher stats…
9 years in higher education
5 department chairs
9 undergraduate General Science and various Biology courses taught
11 graduate (doctoral) STEM Education courses taught (all in the last 2 years)
3 science & math methods courses co-taught
states: Arkansas, US Virgin Islands, Louisiana
highest degree: Doctorate of Philosophy- Molecular Biology, Microbiology & Biochemistry
This road has been rocky to say the least. In my first position, I had 3 different university presidents, 2 different provosts, and 2 different deans in the 4 years I was there. In my second position, I had no chair to report to in my first semester but then there were 3 different department chairs in each of the following 3 semesters. Thankfully there has been stability in leadership so far in my current position; however, I have had completely new preps for 11 different doctoral level courses within the last 5 semesters. Some times reflecting on all of this gets me down and makes me wonder why I even subject myself to this because as many people point out I could just “work in a lab and get paid way more money.” However, I know that my calling is in education.
There are times when I am reminded of why I do this work and why it is important. Its times when I am able to talk with some of my past teachers and professors to let them know how much they impacted me and how what they taught me is being past along to my students. But recently it was when I saw the notice that we lost Mr. Eddie Finnell, Sr., a long time educator in my hometown of Washington, Georgia. I was never fortunate to be taught by Mr. or Mrs. Finnell during their tenure of teaching, but I was fortunate to be supported by them during my academic journey. It is heartwarming to see the outpouring of love and memories as many former students share some of the lessons that they learned from him. I’m so grateful for the time that I had to visit their home and chat with them after I was awarded Valedictorian of my high school class. They let me know how proud their were of me and their words of encouragement are part of what I carry in my heart as I continue in this field as an educator. I thought it was only fitting to be met with his departure at the beginning of Teacher Appreciation week.
We love you Mr. Finnell and all of the teachers who continue to pour into their students and change lives despite the increasing challenges faced within educational systems.
Take time to tell a teacher you care this week!