July 25, 2012

How Will We Spend Our Inheritance?

Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations.  All this is put in your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it on to your children.   - Albert Einstein

This quote hangs next to my desk as a reminder of the many teachers who imposed significant influence upon my learning, career choices, and mentorship as a teacher.  I've always loved Einstein's way with words, but this particular quote is a call to action to honor the legacy that has been left for the education profession and make our own meaningful contributions.  While one could see this quote referring to education and schools as a whole,  today I choose to honor the legacy that educators have left throughout my schooling.  I share this in the hopes of spending my inheritance of this profession wisely as I continue my work to make a meaningful impact.

Mrs. Keller and Mrs. Stapleton were my 3rd grade teachers who truly changed my life.  They introduced me to my first love- the stage!  My debut at Mrs. Claus in our class play "Santa Claus Takes a Vacation" was a defining moment in my young life and I am forever grateful for how this experience shaped my interests and pursuits in theatre.

Mr. Erikson was my 5th grade teacher and while I don't remember much about the class, I do remember a lot about him.  He entrusted me with a very important job out of the many classroom job choices.  I was in charge of filing papers.  Yes I know it may seem like a rather boring task, but you see, I did it so well that Mr. Erickson asked me to continue my job throughout the year.  I helped him reorganize all his teacher files that year!  In Mr. Erickson's class, I mattered.

In 6th grade, my teacher Mrs. Crider asked us to do a presentation about anything we wanted.  I was set on being a marine biologist when I grew up so I wanted to do something about ocean animals.  Being the child of a foodie/caterer, what did I do for my presentation?  I made an entire scene of ocean animals out of fruits and vegetables.  Oh how I wish I had pictures of my eggplant killer whale!

My 8th grade science teacher, Mr. Arnold, showed me that I actually was good at understanding science through his patience, extra help, and very creative projects.  In high school, my French teacher through all 4 years, Madame Gruwell, made learning French the most delightful experience, even when my verb conjugation wasn't the best.

But my #1 favorite most influential teacher of all time came in college, when I was least expecting it.  Meet Dr. Fred Kiesner.  I had declared a minor in Business Administration and registered for one of his classes, another life defining moment.  He challenged me to scrutinize my dreams and failures, and insisted on absolutely nothing than my best.  Dr. Kiesner roped me into an emphasis in Entrepreneurship (which was perfect since I was set on becoming a producer and opening my own theatre one day) and opened many doors for me through internships at theatre companies.  He believed in me and my insatiable ambition.  When I decided to go back to school and become a teacher, he wrote an amazing letter of recommendation that made me believe I really could be the teacher he saw in me. 

What does my inheritance have in common?  The teachers who shaped my educational journey let me focus on my interests, gave me choices and valued my creativity, they were patient and did not give up even when I wanted to.  Most of all, they believed in me and helped me believe in myself.  It's encouraging to look back and see these examples of personalized learning.

With the opportunity to work with 350+ students this year, personalized learning seems like an enormous task.  I will make a difference through believing in each student's unique strengths and talents, spreading enthusiasm for learning and discovery, and I will challenge my students to accept nothing less than their best.  This seems like a good place to start with my inheritance.

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