Growing Up, I Needed Someone To Tell Me It Was Going To Be Okay. Now, I Get To Be That Person

Hi, I’m Joshua Case. This is #WhyITeach.

As a child, I was diagnosed early on with both ADHD and Aspergers Syndrome. The Aspergers diagnosis was later changed to PDD-NOS, and I still suffer from both as an adult.

Today, as a 28 year old married man, I still struggle to keep my composure at loud social situations such as banquets, and my wife often has to repeat anything she tells me.

It’s hard to even sit down for a video game or a movie, no matter how much interest I have.

However, it could have been much worse.

I still remember every milestone as I got older. At age 12, I watched my first fireworks without running away. At age 14, I made the first friend that I kept for more than a year or two. At age 18, I had my first romantic relationship. At age 20, after confiding in a friend about my disabilities, they told me they could never tell. And at age 24, defying expectations, I earned an MAT and started teaching. This was the moment where I felt like a real civilized human for the first time, and I earned that MAT so I could help other children feel the same.

Today, I have a wide array of experiences, which I have tried to use in order to achieve that goal.

I started as a middle school science teacher in a high-needs school, where 99% of students were eligible for free lunch. Despite my difficulties growing up, I recognize my privilege as a white, Jewish boy from one of the best school districts in the state. This teaching placement was an adjustment.

But in each student, I saw potential and knew I was drawn to that location to play a role. I became as much of a counselor as I was a teacher and was able to apply what I’ve learned in my own situation(s) to help them succeed in a world that worked against them.

Some of them keep in touch, telling me how I prepared them well for high school and the goals they have for life.

Today, I am a special education teacher. I still teach pull-out environmental science classes and plug into a variety of subjects, but my focus is on working with students like me. Many of my students have the same disabilities as me, some have others, but they’re all beneficiaries of my support. I feel proud of each and every one of them for all of their milestones—showing up to class, turning in an assignment on time, opening up to someone, and whatever else they struggle to accomplish.

I teach because, when I was growing up, I needed someone like me to tell me I was okay. Now I get to be that person.

Connect with me on KDP’s Educator Learning Network!

My Teaching Inspiration Is My Brother, My First Pupil

Hi, I’m Ilana Rashba. This is #WhyITeach.

For as long as I can remember, I have always enjoyed learning and teaching others.

When I first found out that I was going to be a sister, at four years old, I was ecstatic to have a “real student” other than my stuffed animals.

Little did my brother know at that time, he was my very first pupil and is now the reason why I do what I do.

I was always “that student” who absolutely loved school since academics came easily to me. I look back on my own schooling experience and I am truly filled with wonderful memories. I can pinpoint exactly which teachers challenged me, encouraged me, and shaped me into being the person I am today. I am one of the lucky ones.  I loved school and school loved me.

I couldn’t imagine anyone not loving school in the way I did—except there was one; my brother had a very different relationship with school than I did. Sure, he never really put up a fight about going, but I know that for him school was challenging and a place where he didn’t feel good about himself.

As the older sister, I tried to help him and show him the ways that helped me, convinced that my way of learning would be successful for him. When they weren’t, I felt so defeated. I kept looking for different ways that would allow him to understand multiplication.

I realized that my brother, like many students, just needed the information presented in a different way. I thought about what my brother liked and suddenly it came to me.

The best way for my brother to understand the 7’s times tables was through thinking in terms of football touchdowns; a connection worked and stuck like glue! 9 years late, he now has a great relationship with school and is about to graduate from college—possibly with honors!

I teach to make a difference in all my students’ lives.

I teach to make connections with my students that will enhance their relationship with school.

I teach to make students excited about school and learning because I’ve personally seen the difference it can make.

Connect with me on KDP’s Educator Learning Network!

I’m Not Proud Of My First Year, But I’m Glad I Didn’t Quit

lindseyHi, I’m Lindsey Warden. This is #WhyITeach.

When people hear that I teach middle school, they usually think I’m crazy, and when they hear where I started my teaching career, they usually think I’m even crazier.

I started teaching in 2015 through a placement program and picked up my life to move to rural Mississippi, where I spent a few weeks in the summer preparing to welcome over a hundred seventh graders to my English classroom in the fall.

Sweltering in the unreal Mississippi summer heat, I threw myself into learning all I could in informational afternoon sessions while co-teaching in a summer school classroom each morning. I was not even remotely prepared for the challenges I would face in my own classroom, no matter how enthusiastic and confident I felt.

My classroom lovingly decorated, books for a classroom library carefully gathered, and lesson plans for the first weeks of school written, I quickly realized that I was an outsider in a tightly-knit community.

The compliant and respectful kids that were selected for my summer school class gave way to children who ran the full gamut behaviorally, emotionally and academically speaking. Less than twelve of my students that year were reading at or above grade level, and that wasn’t the worst news compared to test scores from their previous achievement assessment.

The school leadership, who cared deeply about their students but fought high-impact battles against apathy, funding difficulties, and alignment of teaching practices to the requirements of newly adopted Common Core State Standards, held me to high standards and were in and out of my classroom often to help me troubleshoot my problems. As I began coming to terms with exactly how difficult my first year in the classroom was about to be, my students were also realizing that I basically had no idea what I was doing. My classroom ran wild, my students disliked me, and I was filled with anxiety over my instructional and management failures. Many of my co-workers expected me to quit before Christmas.

I didn’t quit.

Whenever I felt like quitting, I thought of Desmond*, a tiny boy in my inclusion class who spent the first quarter failing every test. One day in November, he made a 70. Then, he made an 80. When he made his first 100 and jumped out of his seat dancing with joy, my heart swelled with pride for him and his success. I began to realize that even though my kids deserved a better teacher than me, I might be making a small difference in some way.

I also thought of the kids I couldn’t seem to reach, like Cory, a chronically absent boy who would miss school for weeks at a time. One time, when he finally did come back, he revealed that he had been living for months with an abscessed tooth that the family couldn’t or perhaps wouldn’t get treated. I thought of students I could see parts of my experiences in, like Kadir, a Yemeni refugee whose family had settled in north Mississippi and who I often imagined felt even more out-of-place than I did. I thought of students whose stories crushed me to my core, like Tamora, who seemed upset one day and divulged to me in the hallway that she was being abused by her step-father.

I continued to teach for the academic outcomes, like Desmond’s and worked hard to turn my students into readers and pull them to higher levels of achievement. But I also continued because I realized quitting would just be one more example of instability in the lives of children who craved adults who cared, and adults who wouldn’t give up or quit on them.

I’m not proud of my first year teaching.

I know I did poorly in the classroom, and I know my students deserved and needed a more experienced teacher. Or a teacher with ANY experience at all.

I’m in my fourth year of teaching now, and am nearing graduation with my M.Ed.

Pursuing my master’s degree in teaching has helped me fill in the gaps that I had from taking a nontraditional route into the profession, and my classroom runs more smoothly than ever. My students and I love learning together using a project-based approach and have done everything from tracing our family genealogies back to the 1800s and 1700s in American History to drafting United Nations resolutions and debating them in a mock UN session in English.

I genuinely love my work in the classroom and enjoy seeing my students excited to learn. While I have since moved to a different town and now teach students in a suburban setting, I carry the lessons learned with my first groups of kids with me daily and remember that children in any school need teachers who care. A few students from my first few groups have since reached out, now as high schoolers, and thanked me just for being there and for coming in every day.

This is why I teach.

Aside from helping students improve and meet academic and behavioral goals, I teach because I love the human connections this career has allowed me to form.

Knowing that I can make a small difference each day, just with my own kindness and tenacity, and knowing that I am modeling qualities like empathy, perseverance, and open-mindedness for the world’s future leaders and activists is so rewarding, and it keeps me coming back to the profession year after year.

When my time to serve students comes to an end, I know I will look back with love on my extended community of learners and look forward to the future with hope for all the extraordinary things they will do in this world. ❤️🍎✏️

Connect with me on KDP’s Educator Learning Network!

*student names have been changed

I Teach, Because It’s What I Was Always Meant To Do

Hi, I’m Jill Bontrager. This is #WhyITeach.

jillGrowing up, I loved school. I did really well in school.

In fact, I even pretended that I was a teacher on occasion when playing with my dolls.

However, I never planned on actually becoming a teacher—or so I thought. Nope, I was going to be a police officer. I wanted to save people.

Then one day, which turned into years, I became the one who needed saving. My family fell apart; my life was dramatically altered by some disheartening events, and I no longer believed I could make a difference. Yet, my desire to help people never went away. In fact, it grew stronger; I just didn’t see it that way. As I grew older, I still didn’t consider teaching, so I found my way into customer service and sales.

My innate desire to learn and help others do the same enabled me to be quite successful in that area. But all along, God had other plans.

Ultimately, after many people and events were placed strategically into my life, my calling was finally realized. As it turns out, my hardships are the very reason I teach.

studentsI teach because there are wounded students out there who need someone to connect with them.

I teach because every student needs a person in his or her corner cheering them on, even if their parents won’t or can’t do it.

I teach because I know how important it is to be truly seen by your teacher and know that you are thought of even when you are out of school.

studentsI teach because I want students to use their critical thinking skills we learn in my English classes to excel and not be taken advantage of; to see the logical fallacies presented to them in the media, in society and even by their friends and family; to watch them find confidence when they write an essay they never believed possible; to see pride beaming across their faces when they accomplish a goal that seemed insurmountable.

I teach because my students fill my heart with joy and fulfill my calling in this world. I teach because if I didn’t, who would I be?

I am a teacher, and I teach because that is who I am and what I was always meant to do.

Connect with me on KDP’s Educator Learning Network!

Share Your #WhyITeach

Teacher Appreciation Week is quickly approaching—what a great time to share with the world why you’re proud to be a teacher!

KDP is looking to feature stories, photos, videos, and more, from teachers like you; we love a Celebration of Teaching!

We want to see and hear about your classroom experiences, mentors, lives you’ve touched, and what keeps you inspired in your work.

So, we’ve launched a contest that runs through Tuesday, April 30, with winners announced by early May.

1 Grand Prize Winner Will Be Chosen

  • $1,000 check
  • Story featured in the New Teacher Advocate
  • Free Convo registration
  • Story featured on blog and in email during National Teacher Week (5/6-5/10)

4 Runner-Up Prize Winners Will Be Chosen

  • $250 check
  • Story featured on blog during National Teacher Week (5/6-5/10)

In order to be entered into the contest:

  1. Post your story on the Educator Learning Network using the hashtag #WhyITeach; and
  2. Share your story on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram with the hashtag #WhyITeach and tag @KappaDeltaPi.

What is the Educator Learning Network?

We’re glad you asked! The ELN is our new online learning environment and social community. Learn more at https://eln.kdp.org, and post your story by clicking on “Take Me to the KDP Network” (the second blue button). You’ll be asked to log into your member account—or, if you’re not a member yet, you can create a free account!

How will winners be chosen?

While we anticipate wanting to re-tell each and every story, we are limited to just 5 that we select. Ultimately, we are looking for heart-warming, inspirational, and encouraging stories about the teaching profession.

If you have any questions, please contact Chris Beaman, Director of Advancement & Communications, by emailing chris@kdp.org or by calling 800-284-3167.

Top 5 Reasons to Update Your KDP Profile Preferences

So many great resources are available to KDP members that it might be a little overwhelming.

However, we now offer a way for you to tell KDP what you want! Your MyKDP profile allows you to indicate and change your interest areas and your expertise, and specify what you want from your membership experience. Here are the top five reasons why updating your preferences will help you.

5) Tailor communications for you. By indicating your interests, we are sure to alert you to new resources, issues, and events that fit what you want to know about.

4) Connect with other members who have similar interests. These interests will help unite you with those who have similar issues, questions, or concerns around the topic. This way, you can communicate and learn from one another.

3) Reduce irrelevant emails. Get messages which provide content that addresses the topics most important to you.

2) Help KDP create resources for your needs. By learning what your interests are, KDP can focus our efforts on resources, benefits, and services that you need to succeed.

1) Ensure you are getting the most from your membership. We want you to succeed, and the best way to help is by providing you with relevant resources for your needs—no matter where you are in your career. To do this, we need your feedback on how we can best support you.

Log in to MyKDP and click on My Education and Interests and My Expectations from Membership to edit your information. Select your choices and save. It’s that easy!

Thanks for being a member of Kappa Delta Pi!

International Day of Education

As educators, we understand the value and power of education. We witness it each day—when our students have an “aha” moment, when they grin with pride after successfully completing a new task, when they graduate ready to pursue their dreams.

The role of education in changing lives and communities is now more important than ever.

A year ago, the United Nations ratified the new 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), including Quality Education as goal number 4. The 2019 Global Education Monitoring Report determined that it is only through achieving quality education for all that the other 16 SDGs will be achieved.

In other words, the path to a just, peaceful, thriving planet is dependent on providing a quality education for everyone.

Unfortunately, millions of people around the globe do not have access to a quality education. As we remain steadfastly committed to Kappa Delta Pi’s goal of equity and a quality education for all, we work to serve members around the globe through campaigns like Change for Children, Books for Nigeria, and most recently, Backpacks of Hope.

We also support educators with quality resources and training though professional development courses on our new Educator Learning Network.

The power and impact of our community of committed educators continues to make a difference in the lives of students every day. In October, we will come together to recognize our role and grow as professionals at our international Convocation, focusing on the Power of You, the educator. For any educator who is interested in joining us, proposals are now being accepted on our website at http://www.kdp.org/convo2019.

As an NGO of the United Nations for 9 years, we invite you to join us in celebrating International Day of Education on January 24.

Because you are leaders of teaching and learning, this day celebrates you! On this day and every day, we need to remember that as education professionals, the people and creatures of the world are relying on us to make the world a better place. There is no other profession that has this role, privilege, and responsibility.

I leave you with a challenge. Share with the world your philosophy of education using the Showcase section of your FREE e-portfolio through our Educator Learning Network. Upload your philosophy to your e-portfolio and use the hashtag #EdPhilosophyChallenge on social media to share your philosophy with the world and others who are passionate about education. By doing so, you’re helping to raise awareness of the importance of education in our global society. (To create your e-portfolio, log into your KDP member profile and click on ‘My ePortfolio’ under the ‘My Account’ menu.)

Thank you for ALL that you do to make the world a better place through your chosen profession.

Faye Snodgress is the Executive Director of KDP.