To the editor:
As another year comes to a close, I’ve been thinking about the ways that growing up in Greenwood has shaped my path. I was fortunate to get a fantastic education here that opened up a slew of opportunities for me. As a kid with lots of support, it was easy not to notice how many teachers and administrators I had supporting and encouraging me to be successful.
When I got to college, I started to realize the impact people like Rich Perry, Becky Kehler, Harold Lawson, Alison Bonham, Sandy James, Pam Wishmeyer, Jon Sutton, Mariah Sirkin, Tina Hensley and Lisa Harkness made on me and how much of a role they played in helping me access all the opportunities I’ve had.
Thanks to these individuals and the financial security of my family, I knew I would grow up to have choices. But the same is not true for too many kids. Today, where a child is born or and how much his parents make plays a significant role in how far he’ll go.
This is injustice in its purest form. So when I thought about how much of a difference my own teachers made in my life, I wanted to give that same level of support, guidance and empowerment to other students. After I graduated from Purdue, I joined Teach For America, an organization that enlists recent college grads and career changers to teach in high-need communities and advocate for equity.
Now, I spend my days with 20-plus 4- and 5-year-olds. The work is difficult. But their growth makes it all worth it. One student of mine in particular, Taylor, has proven this to me. School isn’t easy for Taylor. He doesn’t always like to sit still. He sometimes speaks out of turn and has trouble following directions.
But Taylor also loves to learn. A few weeks ago, he cried the day he was sick and couldn’t come in. (I know because mom texted me to help her calm him down.) He is one of my fastest learners and most critical thinkers. He is among the top performers in science and math. (I tell him all the time that because of it he is bound for Purdue.)
In light of all this, it’s particularly painful to think about the challenges this kindergartner is likely to face down the road. Because of his ZIP code, his skin color and his irrepressible spirit, society is likely to write him off as deviant when he makes the kinds of missteps all bright, creative, promising kids are bound to make.
Students like Taylor need adults to work against society’s stereotypes, get to know them as people, support them in developing the skills and mindsets that will help them be successful in school, show them they’re valued just as they are, and believe in what they can accomplish. As I work to become the kind of teacher I once looked up to, this is my aspiration.
The classroom offers an unparalleled opportunity to do this. So whether you’re looking to make a bigger impact yourself or know someone who is, consider teaching. Together, we can give our kids the futures they deserve.