By Susan Riddell
The U.S. Department of Education recently launched the TEACH network, an effort to recruit and usher in the next generation of teachers. TEACH also strives to raise awareness of the teaching profession and enhance the public perception of what it means to be a teacher. The TEACH.gov website has numerous resources for people interested in the teaching profession.
At TEACH.gov, those interested can learn what it’s really like to be a teacher and get the tools needed to launch a career in education.
The website has valuable information on career paths, preparation programs, financial aid incentives, licensing and certifications, job listings, and more.
Three Kentucky public school teachers, Teresa Brewer, Paul Decker and Jordan Black, each knew at different times in their lives they wanted to become teachers.
Brewer, a 3rd-grade teacher at Campton Elementary School (Wolfe County), came to that realization in her sophomore year of college. “I was so focused on my education that I did not really understand how glad I was that I chose teaching until I got hired to teach,” said Brewer, now in her 28th year as a teacher.
Decker is in his seventh year at Ohio County High School, where he teaches geometry and special needs mathematics. “I was asked to help coach the high school basketball team while pursuing another career path,” he said. “After working with the kids for only a short time, I knew the classroom is where I was supposed to be.”
Black has always known the classroom was the place for her. Now in her first year of teaching, the 5th-grade educator at Collins Elementary School (Boone County) grew up playing teacher with her two younger sisters as students. “I would create a grade book, take attendance and make tests and quizzes,” she said. ”As I got older I thought about other careers, but I always knew teaching was for me.”
While these three teachers are located in different parts of the state and have been in the teaching profession a varied number of years, they agree about many things.
They all say people are incorrect about several common assumptions made about teachers.
“I think the biggest misconception is that teaching is an easy job, and we have three months vacation a year,” Decker said. “The time we spend teaching, preparing, training, grading and furthering our education more than makes up the difference in time.”
And those plentiful snow days this year? If they can catch a little extra sleep and get some bonus family time, that’s great. But they also try to get some work done in the form of grading papers or planning lessons ahead of time.
Black and Brewer were each influenced to become teachers by an English teacher they had in high school. Decker’s biggest influences were his wife and Kyle Estes, a former Ohio County High geometry teacher (now director of student services for the Hancock County school district) and coach who served as a mentor while Decker became acclimated to teaching.
Here is more about the three teachers and why they teach in their own words:
Jordan Black, first-year teacher
Why she teaches: I had wonderful teachers growing up. I went to a wonderful elementary school that I was excited to go every day. The teachers were so excited, passionate and fun. I wanted to be just like them. As I got older I realized I loved working with children and that I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. My dad is a teacher also, and I always wanted to be just like him. He was a great influence in my choice of being a teacher.
Three words she used to describe her teaching style: energetic, compassionate and engaging
Favorite classroom items: My new school laptop, the LCD projector, the ENO board and my document camera. I love these items because they engage the students in the learning that is taking place.
Advice for an aspiring teacher: I would tell them that it is a very rewarding job. You have to work hard, but the reward is worth it. I would tell them it is the best job that I could ever imagine having, and that if they wanted to be a teacher they would have to learn to be a good role model and love and be compassionate to their students.
Paul Decker, seventh-year teacher
Why he teaches: I enjoy working with kids and trying to make a difference. I have always been put in situations where I am in charge of training or leading others, and it is something that has always come naturally to me. I especially enjoy seeing the “light go on” with kids as they grasp a certain concept or understand something they were struggling to get.
Three words he used to describe his teaching style: loud, enthusiastic and concise
Favorite classroom item: The ActivBoard is something we have access to in all our classrooms. It allows us to use interactive technology on a daily basis.
Advice for an aspiring teacher: Make sure it is what you want to do, and do it for the right reasons. I would tell them to observe as many teachers as possible, never stop learning from others, accept changes as they occur and stay positive at all times.
Teresa Brewer, 28th-year teacher, Rank I, KTIP teacher
Why she teaches: I teach because I want to make a significant, lasting difference in the lives of young people, which in turn will hopefully have a positive impact upon society. I teach because (to be blunt) I do not know anything else. I just feel naturally led to be a teacher, and I wear that title proudly. I am extremely interested in providing students with life skills, appropriate study habits and the necessary strategies/techniques for obtaining, maintaining and applying skills for enhancing learning. I teach because it keeps me on my toes and learning, as each day is a challenge. I look forward to the interaction with my students.
Three words she used to describe her teaching style: enthusiastic, encouraging and dedicated
Favorite classroom item: If this had been several years ago, I would have said my chalkboard. However, today, I will say my dry-erase board. I constantly use the board, because I believe in modeling and using visual aids when I teach. Also, I use a variety of markers to color-code when, for example, I illustrate and label the water cycle or life cycles, compare and contrast items in Venn diagrams, sort and categorize vowel sounds, create word webs for creative writing, and so much more.
Advice for an aspiring teacher: I would say “That is wonderful” and encourage him or her to follow their dreams. I would say to an aspiring teacher that you must realize you have an extremely important job because you hold the future in your hands. You must take your job seriously and continue to reflect on ways to implement strategies that will bring real meaning into the lives of the little people who you are so fortunate to come into contact with daily. I would say breathe, smile, relax and enjoy your career.