“The word of an admired teacher carries more weight than anyone can imagine.” My sister Tracy (who is a Physical Education teacher at Eugene A. Tighe Middle School in Margate, New Jersey) said those words to me prior to my acceptance into the MST Program at Rowan University in 2014, and they have stuck with me ever since. Although I knew prior to 2014 that I wanted to change careers and become a teacher, those words cemented the feeling I already had in my heart:
I wanted to make a difference in the lives my students.
From 2005 to 2012, I worked at Adams, Rehmann and Heggan, a leader in the fields of surveying, engineering, GPS, and GIS services. Although I enjoyed my time there and loved working in the family business, it was time for a change. That change came for me when I accepted a job at the Hammonton Middle School as a paraprofessional aide for an autistic boy. Being back in the school setting was very surreal, but I felt like I was in the right place. I will forever be grateful for the then-Principal, Gene Miller, for giving me a chance. If he had given the job to someone else, I do not think I would be in the position I am today. I worked in the Middle School for a year and a half and absolutely loved my time there. The administration and staff there are exceptional and I believe they are one of the top middle schools in the area.
While working full-time, I was also taking classes at Atlantic Cape Community College and Camden County College. These classes were required for acceptance into the MST Program at Rowan University. I knew that if I could get through working full time, taking classes at night, and having a 2-year-old child at home, I could get through anything life would throw at me.
In 2014, I was accepted into the MST program where I was part of a cohort in which everyone was assiduous (means diligent) in accomplishing their goals of becoming successful teachers. From action research to edTPA to classes to no income to student teaching, every single person in that program deserves the award of student teacher of the year.
From that science and paraprofessional aide background, I knew then that I wanted to become a middle school science teacher. I wanted to teach my students about the wonders of the world and our universe. Carl Sagan once said that “We are all made of star stuff,” and if you ask any of my students, they could all tell you what that means. I felt back in 2013 and feel currently in 2015 that I am required as a teacher to inspire my students to use science to become whatever they want to be in this world. This has been my running goal since before leaving Adams, Rehmann and Heggan. If I could, as a teacher, motivate my students into falling in love with science and our universe (because I believe that venturing into space is our destiny), then my job as a teacher will be complete. Becoming a teacher was one of the only ways I could accomplish those goals.
Everyone is filled with experiences and those experiences are what make us who we are today. What led you to this profession? Share your experiences!
Rick Heggan is a 6th and 8th Grade Science Teacher in Medford Lakes, New Jersey and was named the 2015 KDP/ATE Student Teacher of the Year.
If you need a job for next fall, you need to attend the Job Search Summit (starting TOMORROW, Thursday, March 3, 2016) to learn about résumés, cover letters, finding a job, and interviewing.