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Virginia Journal of Education


Sometimes, an educator can’t help but feel a little like a superhero.

The rewards that come with a career in education are often unexpected, little ones—but those can mean more than anything. We asked readers to share some of their most affirming times with us by responding to this statement: Describe a moment that made you proud you chose to be an educator.

Here’s what some of you had to say.

From the Streets to Greeting the Governor
When a young man named Delano came to me, there was very little he seemed able to perform. After I took him on as a mentee and a student, he rapidly became accustomed to “red-ink-soaked” papers, language lessons and talks about character. Our work together paid off when he later won the Dominion Virginia Strong Men and Women essay contest, writing about poet Maya Angelou. 

“Ms. Angelou’s honesty in sharing her life story has enabled me to acknowledge my own personal hardships,” Delano wrote in his essay. “I was born to a cocaine-addicted mother and an absentee father. After my grandmother had difficulty caring for me, I was often in the streets hungry and penniless. I soon realized I could not be held responsible for my family’s actions, but I was responsible for my own actions. I then went from being a student who failed seventh grade to becoming a college-bound honor roll student in high school.”

At the essay awards ceremony, Delano introduced himself to then-Governor Tim Kaine and made a resounding impression on all who met him that evening. When he read his essay, he received a standing ovation and a scholarship from an impressed donor to ensure a college education. Now, some 10 years later, he has just completed his master’s degree and plans to work as a high school counselor.

I have high expectations for students and will continue to assist them in character development, in making choices that are sound and healthy, in loving themselves and others, in building a solid foundation, and in becoming all they can become and more.  Thank you, Delano, for making me, and others, proud to be an educator.
--Shirley J. Cordell-Robinson, Fredericksburg


Can’t Camouflage the Learning
At an after-school showing of Frozen last year, I went and sat with a few of my students who are most needy both academically and in their home lives. Watching their huge smiles as they got to sit next to me during the movie was amazing in itself, but the best part was when a student turned to me enthusiastically and said, "Ms. Severo, Ms. Severo, that's camouflage! The snow monster was using camouflage!" First of all, the amount of excitement he had for being able to connect something he’d learned in school to something non-academic was precious. Second, we’d learned about camouflage a few months earlier, so seeing him both remember and apply it showed me what I teach does stick with students.

Another time, I gave my students an assignment on money and economics, asking them to write about what they’d do with $100. Most wrote that they’d buy toys or cute clothes, but one student asked if he had to spend the money. Assuming he was referring to saving it, I asked what he’d do if he didn’t spend it. His response was heart-breaking: He said he’d give it to his mom and dad, so they could pay rent. All I wanted to do was hug him and tell him everything was going to be OK. It's these moments, when I realize how unstable the families are that I work with and how in need they are, that remind me how much my students need me. For many, I'm the only English dialogue or positive role model they get all day. Seeing them upset about summer break because they don't want to leave me is one of the proudest moments I could ever have as a teacher.
 --Alexa Severo, Loudoun County


Little Moments Stand Out
What makes me proud to be an educator? We all know it’s not the paycheck, but we also know that money didn’t drive our decisions to teach. Our moments of pride usually arrive in the intangibles. It’s not the “thank you” gifts at the holidays or the end of the year, but the simple individual moments that sneak into our days. Here are a few of my moments from the past year:

    Nick, who fake-read through Quiet Reading Time most of the year, begged to go to his locker for his book. And then he finished it. And asked if I had any more like it. 

    Rick, who failed his Reading and Writing SOL exams but worked his rear end off and raised his reading level by two grades. And his parents thanked me for his success. 

    Ronin, who claimed to hate my class but managed to wander in during morning and afternoon homeroom. And he talked with me every time. 

    Felicia, who proclaimed me her favorite teacher when I wore my “Okay? Okay” T-shirt. And then she pounced on the other John Green novels I recommended. 

    What makes me proud to be a teacher? My students.
 --Heather Deputy, Stafford County


Picking Up the Pieces
After the headlines of a community tragedy fade, the ones who truly make a difference in healing and moving forward are often educators. I feel such pride to be part of the teachers, paraprofessionals, bus drivers, principals and others who strive to bring back whatever normalcy we can in the lives of the students we serve. After hurricanes, tornados, fires and earthquakes, it’s the education community that often reaches out and helps arrange for much-needed services. This usually happens quietly, but the lives we touch are forever affected. And it’s not just after natural disasters, either—educators are often leading community recovery after acts of violence and in places of unrest, like Ferguson and Baltimore.

I also feel a great deal of pride and camaraderie every time I hear a Teacher of the Year speak.  Shanna Peeples, this year’s National Teacher of the Year, has an incredibly story of overcoming hardships and being so moved by her teachers that she became one herself. Today, she finds herself in her students, just as I do. I share a "band of brothers" sense that we, as educators, really do make an important difference. We help shape our students’ stories.
 --Carol Bauer, York County

Sometimes You Get It in Writing
I received a letter not too long ago, and I share it not so you’ll think I’m such a wonderful teacher, but because this student seems to understand what we’re all striving to accomplish as educators. Here are a few excerpts:

As I’ve matured over the past four years, I’ve come to see that, like a coach who pushes athletes to their limits so they can thrive, you press students to get the best out of them. Students can classify your class as easy or difficult but, either way, you are equally able to challenge us with your questions and make us dig deeper than what we might have thought. English class isn’t just to get students to remember the plot of novels or to research authors. It’s to open students’ minds on how to analyze writing and viewpoints and to gain perspective we can use in other classes—and in life. As you’ve said many times, your class is a journey, not a destination. I believe any high school would be improved with your presence.
 --Warren Bowling, Lynchburg


Invited to the Party
One of my eighth-grade special education students came back to find me in my classroom, several years after finishing our class, to invite me to his high school graduation. He told me he wouldn’t be getting his diploma if I hadn't put forth the effort I did for him in middle school. Looking back, he knew that was a turning point for him, and said that I was the first teacher that showed I truly cared about him. I very proudly stood with his family on his high school graduation day.
 --Alison MacArthur, Loudoun County

Smoothing Rough Spots for Students and Parents
At registration night for school last year, a father told me about his worries for his son. The boy was spending a year away from his mother, who was in Texas, was below grade level in reading, and struggled with ADHD as well as anxiety and anger issues. "I'm so glad my son has you for his teacher,” the dad told me. “A friend told me how successful her daughter was when she was in your classroom."
               In June, I was able to tell the father that his son had increased his reading levels enough to be ready for the next year, and that he had no behavior issues the entire year. In addition, he’d been able to go off all his medications! With tears in his eyes, dad hugged me and thanked me for loving and caring for his son all year.
 --Carmen Sitton, Amherst County

Caps and Gowns
As a special education teacher working in collaborative classes, I have the privilege of working with many students as both as freshmen in Earth Science, and as seniors in Government. I love the relationship that I build with students over their high school years—some students grow and mature; others, not so much. I looked at graduation pictures posted on our school website this June, and loved that in many of those photos of graduates waiting to receive their diploma, my students with disabilities were lined up in alpha order, smiling just like everyone else. Regardless of which diploma they were receiving, all students were the same. That warms my teacher heart, and makes my day every time!
 --Jennifer Andrews, Henrico County

Raised Voices for What’s Right
It made me so proud to march the street of our state capital on April 18 with fellow educators, parents and students to tell our elected officials to Put Kids First. I’ve participated in other education events; however, this one was special. I loved knowing my Association was instrumental in organizing this rally with the PTA and that we, the educators, were the ones speaking up. This made me proud not only to be an educator but also to be a member of the VEA.
 --Joy Kirk, Frederick County




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