When I was little I thought I wanted to be a teacher for a hot second. That quickly dissipated when I realized my patience is as thin as ice...did you always know you wanted to be a teacher?
Haha! It definitely tries your patience at times. I’ve learned to laugh at the craziness! I didn’t know that I always wanted to be a teacher. My parents probably knew - I always used to make my brother play school in our basement. And I stole colorful chalk from my teacher in first grade… fabulous student. But, I volunteered in high school in my elementary school and just thought I’d give it a go in college. In my first few years at Penn State, I was able to volunteer at a couple local schools and fell in love with it!
What grade do you teach now and how is that different from your fifth graders?
I currently teach ESL (English as a Second Language) to kindergarten through fifth grade students. I taught sixth grade for 1 year and fifth grade for 4 years before this fun change! My sweet, sweet little kinders are a world of difference from my big fifth graders I was used to having! I am so sarcastic, and the older kids get that - one of the reasons I’ve always loved the older grades. But, I’ve learned to love tying shoes and being silly and teaching the teeny ones! ESL is a whole different world, too. Challenging at times, but truly amazing to see how quickly kids learn and pick up language!
So tell us, what are summers off REALLY like?
Everyone always says that I picked the right profession because of the summers! It’s June 15, and I just finished yesterday. I’ll be back for formal inservice days on August 22, and probably the week before to get my classroom all ready. So, that three months quickly becomes two, with a few meetings and book groups and trainings always sprinkled in too! All that being said - it is WONDERFUL! I always feel so recharged and reenergized when I come back in August. It’s exhausting at times, and I’m grateful that I get a few months to let my brain take a break and come up with some fun new things for the next year! I’m also in the middle of grad school right now too, so my two summer classes will keep me busy.
Is it possible to transition to a teacher role post college? What would you need to do to make that transition?
Most definitely! I know quite a few teachers who have made this their second career. It depends on what state you’re in - certifications are different in every state. If I wanted to come teach in New York, I’d have to take more tests in order to be certified, even though I already teach in PA. It’d also depend on if a lot of your college credits would transfer to a teaching degree. There are lots of other ways to work with kids in schools too - I’m learning a whole new world of being a “specialist” this year too! The fun thing about teaching is that you’re never stuck in the same position. There’s always new challenges, new opportunities, and new kiddos every year!
What's something you wish people knew about your job?
Hmm. Good question. Probably that teachers don’t not work in the summer. Even if we’re vacationing, we probably have a few professional development books in our bag we’ll be reading on the beach.
And - that it is absolutely the most rewarding thing. I work with teachers who work insanely hard all the time. They jump through hoops to do what’s best for kids and are at school until 9 pm if they need to be - because it’s all worth it in the end! It’s hard, exhausting, and frustrating at times, but so, so much fun!
What would you say to bright-eyed college Kenz about your profession?
Your first job doesn’t have to be your forever job. I thought when I landed in fifth grade that I would be there for forever. I worked with a great team and was super happy. I am not a fan of hard things and change. But, an opportunity came up to try out another dream job as an ESL teacher in my same school (YAY for not having to leave my AMAZING school and coworkers!) - and I decided to take it. Change is hard, crazy crazy hard (especially in the middle of a school year!) - but it’s been so worth it!