I am an elementary educator. I want to tell you that I became a teacher to continue the noble tradition of a family of educators. But, the truth is, I became a teacher because I was pretty sure I could change the world. Because of the support of family and countless inspiring educators along the way, I believe in myself and my ability to leave the world a better place. Twenty years and thousands of students after my first day in the classroom, I still trust that nothing has the power to shape the future like education. As teachers inspire a love of learning, build confidence and model critical thinking and work ethic skills, they write history. One student at a time.
I have confidence in myself and my profession thanks to more than a handful of influential educators, but I can say without a doubt that being in Mrs. Scholz’s fourth grade class influenced my career choice and shaped the human being I’ve grown up to be. I can’t remember the topics we studied over three decades ago, but I can remember how Mrs. Scholz made me feel. She made me feel intelligent, important and capable of anything I set my mind to doing. I wrote my first research paper in fourth grade about Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth. I was obsessed with all things baseball and convinced that I’d be the first woman in the major leagues. Mrs. Scholz never let me believe that my goals might be a little too lofty.
She taught us to set high expectations for ourselves and rewarded effort. She rewarded hard work and she worked hard. She threw a party for those of us who made it through the entire year without missing a day of school. We learned how to bind a book, had a class spelling bee and took regular walking field trips to the public library. She taught her students self-respect and gave us personal work ethic skills. She treated everybody fairly, encouraged us all and set an example with her dedication and positive attitude.
It’s pretty amazing to realize how many of my former classmates, now adults, share these positive memories. Mrs. Scholz surely influenced more lives than my own, which is especially amazing because she taught in the inner city school where I was bussed from the suburbs of Louisville, Kentucky. Within the setting of real life diversity, we learned about more than facts. That group of eight and nine year olds learned about life. Guided by a respectful leader, we learned that education dissolves barriers and builds bridges. And, as an educator, that’s how I change the world.