Going to college was always a goal of mine, but there was a time when I really wasn’t sure that I would get there.
It wasn’t that I was a bad student or that I didn’t have the desire; in fact, it was the exact opposite of that.
My struggle came from not having anyone in my family who knew how to guide me through the college preparation process. While my friends were talking to their parents about applications and dorm life, I was sifting through brochures and packets, feeling completely lost as to what I needed to do to actually get into college.
Just before all hope felt lost, I started a math class that changed my life forever.
The Impact of One Teacher
Mr. Robbins had a reputation for being a funny, but highly intelligent, teacher who expected his students to do nothing but their best work.
I hated math and had a track record of not understanding anything that had to do with algebraic equations or dense formulas, so of course I felt nervous when I saw Mr. Robbins’ name show up on my schedule.
Little did I know that simply stepping foot into his class would change my life forever.
When I walked through the door on the first day of class, I noticed a stark difference in the way everything was set up. Rather than having endless charts and rules on the walls, Mr. Robbins had college pennants and memorabilia showcasing not only his alma mater, but those of several students who he had previously taught.
When his instruction time began, he made it a point to mention the colleges on the wall and set the expectation that we would all end up there someday in the near future.
That’s when I realized that Mr. Robbins was more than just a teacher – he was a motivator who knew how to use education as a door to endless possibilities.
I took on the challenge to get my place on his wall, and I can’t recall ever working so hard on math homework in my life. Mr. Robbins was always there along the way, helping me during lunch and telling me that he would be honored to write a college recommendation letter for me if I kept up my efforts.
The more he encouraged me, the more I pushed myself to conquer math once and for all.
I remember opening my report card at the end of the year and staring at the mark I had received. It was an A, and I knew I owed it all to Mr. Robbins.
It Only Takes One Person
The impact of one teacher not only helped me get a bachelor’s degree, but a master’s degree as well. I even got inspired to work in the education field so that I could pay-it-forward and help students who were experiencing the same types of challenges that I was.
I know I was one of the lucky ones. I imagine that there are plenty of students across the country that don’t receive the same level of opportunities that I did. Thankfully, my school practiced educational equity and made sure that all students, no matter what background they came from, had access to the same education. It’s an important social cause in our country that needs to be talked about, but it’s refreshing to see more and more people stepping up to take part in it.
For example, look at Teach For America, an organization that works to ensure that all kids growing up get an excellent education that is full of opportunities, regardless of what zip code they come from. I’ve had the privilege of working with several teachers from this organization and I can’t speak highly enough of them.
Teach For America finds, trains, and places outstanding leaders as teachers in 52 regions around the country, and they also recruit individuals from all career backgrounds and majors. That’s right, you don’t have to be an education major to sign up!
Teach For America also offers all teachers extensive training, as well as ongoing coaching and development in the classroom so that they can continue to refine their teaching approach. It’s a great way for college graduates from all areas of study to not only make a positive impact in students’ lives, but to also improve their own professional abilities as well.
Many Teach For America alumni hold distinguished leadership roles in many fields and continue to advocate for kids, demonstrating that the two-year commitment is just the beginning of an amazing journey toward changing the way education is approached in our society. Many individuals who join Teach For America fall in love with teaching and continue to work in the field today because they’ve seen how great of an impact they can make on a students’ lives.
Throughout my professional career, I’ve had the privilege of watching several of my students succeed in their educational goals because a teacher has inspired them and helped them to not only improve their grades, but their lives as well. Teachers aren’t just educators – they’re supporters, advocates, mentors, leaders, and so much more.
Imagine how much greater our country would be if every student had a teacher like Mr. Robbins – someone who challenged their abilities but believed in their potential. I see Teach For America setting the standard for that, and I can’t help but get excited when I hear about college graduates taking this position for this opportunity because I’ve seen the success stories play out right in front of my eyes.
If you’ve considered teaching or have the desire to make an impact on the next generation, then learn more about teaching with Teach For America and see if it’s a good fit. You may be surprised to find that you’re exactly the type of leader they’re looking for.
And if you have a teacher that changed your life, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!