The Unexpected Rewards of Teaching

Today was one of those unexpected perfect days.

Often times as a teacher you wonder if you are really making a difference. We ask ourselves,  “Will my students have the skills they need to be successful in college, the workplace, and in life?” “Will they be able to work effectively with others and meet the demands of college?” “Will they find a direction?” “Will they be able to use their creativity to solve complex problems?” I try to keep these questions at the forefront of my mind and work hard everyday to make sure that I’ll be able to say “yes” to all of them.

As teachers we hope we are able to impact our students’ lives, but can never really know for sure if we do. Then there are the days like today, when you actually hear from a former student and they explain exactly what you did as their teacher to help inspire them and lead them to success. Sometimes you do find out that your students can handle a challenging college curriculum, work in teams, solve problems, think critically, demonstrate creativity, and have a clear plan and direction for their future.

Today I heard from a former student who is pursuing her degree in marketing. She was my DECA President and was a hard worker as a high school student. She was by far one of the most intrinsically motivated students I had ever had, and always wanted to push herself to the next level of achievement, but I remember there were times when I had to push her just a little bit harder to stay focused, especially when she developed a case of “senioritis.”

I remember when she graduated thinking that she was going to be fine in college. She had the skills, maturity, and motivation to succeed. She was goal-oriented and had big dreams. She was ready. 

Today she contacted me and thanked me for everything that I did to help her be successful as a college student. It was totally unexpected. She explained that she had to work in a team of four and develop an advertising campaign for a real client. The plan consisted of a 60-page written document detailing the strategy and also included billboard-sized visual aids. My former student and her team were so impressive to the client that they were actually offered a contract to implement the campaign they had created and presented. Their group was offered this deal over an existing ad agency.

My former student said it was the hardest she had ever worked and that she wanted to thank me for always pushing her to do her best. The excitement and pride in her voice was so rewarding and just what I needed, particularly at this time of year.

As February vacation approaches, many educators feel that they need a break. It’s been a long year so far but we still have a ways to go. However, it’s hearing the success stories of our students, like the one that was shared with me today, that keep us going and remind us that what we do is so important, meaningful, and rewarding.

I’m honored and fortunate to be a teacher and humbled to hear that I played an important and influential role in the life of a very bright and talented young professional. It’s perfect days like these that remind me that being a teacher is pretty special. 

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