The Pathway to Teaching: “Get Involved, Ask Questions”

I have always known that I wanted to be a teacher, partly because I grew up surrounded by teachers. I learned to respect and admire their valuable work and impact on students. For many students my age, the idea of becoming a teacher brings back bad memories from their own school experiences.

Even though I had some rough times during my K–12 education, I believe that I can learn from these experiences and become a teacher who will speak for students who had the same problems that I did as a child. While I think teaching is an extremely rewarding and important profession, I have met some people who look down upon my decision to become a teacher, because they think I can do more than “just teach.” I never believed there was such thing as “just teach,” for teaching is one of the hardest jobs in the world, and I am lucky enough to have supportive friends and family who feel the same way.

I began thinking seriously about my career as a teacher when I started college at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where I am now a senior pursuing a Spanish major and my licensure to teach Spanish in secondary schools. At UMass Amherst, I am grateful that I became close with my professors and teaching assistants. In fact, one of them helped me get an internship working with English language learner students at a local middle school. This experience was amazing, because it allowed me to use what I had learned in my classes and gave me the chance to connect with students and learn about their lives.

A particular incident during this internship really confirmed my love for teaching. I was introduced to a student from Colombia with limited English proficiency, and his teacher explained to me that he had been struggling with algebra. After sitting with the student and showing him how to solve a two-step equation, he told me that for the first time he actually understood what was going on in the classroom. I was touched that I was capable of impacting this student’s life and helping him adjust to school in the U.S.

My pathway to becoming a classroom teacher has not been easy. My parents and I have had many arguments trying to understand the workings of college, but as a first-generation college student, I found that many schools have resources to help students succeed. Two resources that I found particularly beneficial were the financial aid office, and learning communities, where you can work and connect with students who have similar interests and academic goals.  Additionally, during my first year I often connected with my resident advisor and peer mentor to ask about academics and upcoming events. I am grateful to attend a college that helped me every step of the way.

I look forward to becoming a teacher and providing support for my students, especially when I can empathize with what they are going through. I’m excited about being able to help students make successful transitions from high school to their post-high school lives and to support them the same way my teachers supported me.

If I could give advice to students going into college, regardless of the type of school or discipline they are pursuing, I would say this: Get involved; do not be afraid to ask questions; and think about how you can make a change in this world. Doing these things has helped me tremendously in preparing for my career and gaining confidence in my choice to become a teacher.

Evan Greenwald is a college senior at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He was a summer 2017 intern with the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics