As Oklahoma's Teacher of the Year this year, I have been blessed with many opportunities to travel around my state and speak with teachers and students about why I love teaching. My favorite "gigs" have been speaking with college students who are working towards becoming teachers. Below is the blog post from my Teacher of the Year Blog. It's my letter to future educators of Oklahoma, but my message is for all the future educators out there, in the US and abroad. Enjoy!
Dear Future Educators:
I have been truly grateful for the opportunity to speak with those of you from USAO in Chickasha, SWOSU in Weatherford, East Central in Ada, NSU in Broken Arrow and Tahlequah, UCO in Edmond, Oklahoma City University, Northwestern Oklahoma State University in Alva, Oklahoma Christian University in Edmond, and the University of Oklahoma in Norman. I’ve racked up nearly 6000 miles so far and each mile represents a unit of energy I get from speaking with you.
When I start my speeches, you’ll recall that I tell you, “Over the next 45 minutes to an hour, my goal is to simply validate your decision to teach. If you were going just off of Facebook, Twitter and the news, you might back out. In fact, you still could. But I want to tell you my story, show you some of the things I’ve done, and why I love to teach, with the hope that you will see that this work is worthwhile. I want to show you that while there are challenges, the benefits far outweigh the struggles and this job is the best job in the world.”
Then, I launch into my personal story, talk about my journey from new teacher to Oklahoma’s Teacher of the Year in only four years, and my Teach Like Me Campaign. I use videos and humor to show you why teaching fills my heart and the impact that you can have on children’s lives.
My goal in all of this is that some of you will say, “You know, at one point, I was ready to back out of teaching. But then, this guy Shawn came and spoke to us and he was so excited and passionate about teaching that he encouraged me to stay the course. He told me about how he and his wife are both teachers and that they are doing life on teacher salaries. I mean, he was honest about how it’s unfortunate that our pay scale is so different from surrounding states, but he showed us pictures and video of the things he was doing at Norman High and I want to do something like that.”
So to you future educators who will join our ranks in the near future, my hat is off to you. You are entering our profession at a particularly challenging time, yet you push forward. You know the work is hard. You’ve heard all the reasons why NOT to teach and your friends and family have cautioned you about the salary - yet you proceed. You know that our kids and schools need you. You’re a different generation of teacher. You are the kind of person who wants to change his or her community and you don’t care about the naysayers. You don’t need validation from outsiders - it is in the eyes of your students. It will come when they return to your classroom years later to say hello. Your currency is in thank you notes. You will work miracles. You will save lives. And you will help raise generations of kids who will go on to do great things. Keep your heads up and be very proud when you tell people that you are a teacher. Welcome to the greatest profession in the world!