Redefining Paths: Finding Their  Life’s Purpose in the Classroom
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Redefining Paths: Finding Their Life’s Purpose in the Classroom

Sara Crowston: I’ve always believed
in living my life with purpose. I think as a kid I
was really quiet. I was good at math and science,
so I was told a lot of times,
“You should be an engineer.” That’s
what I started in college but I just
didn’t feel like I fit. I was exploring and ended up
taking an education class. It was the first
class I had where the analytical part
of my brain wasn’t just focused on something
that was mathematical but something that
also mattered. Brandon Hersey: I didn’t always
want to go into education. I thought that a life
of politics was the trajectory that
I was going to be on. Right out of college,
I got a job with the US Department of Health
and Human Services but then my partner accepted
a full-ride scholarship to the University of Washington
School of Medicine. We decided to relocate from
one Washington to another. I was really hoping
to follow in my mom’s footsteps and teach
government or civics, but when I came to
Washington there were no opportunities to teach
those types of things. What was available was
teaching second grade. Sara: I grew up in a pretty
small town in Montana and it was like,
“This is my shot, I’m going to live in a big
city.” I got placed in eastern Washington,
so a lot more rural. Teacher turnover was
a pretty big problem. All the time we would get asked,
“Are you going to be here next year? Are you going to come
to our graduation?” I think our kids just
didn’t believe that it was a place anyone thought
was worth living in. I just remember thinking like,
“I’m going to figure out a way to help convince my kids that they
matter and this place matters.” Brandon: My first year
teaching, I had this student. Others were saying, “He won’t
say much, he doesn’t talk. Just do your best.” That
made me incredibly nervous. I noticed that he had
a Pokemon backpack. I’m a huge nerd and loved
Pokemon and just starting there we built a conversation
around our common interests. Had I not taken
the time to learn about what he was into,
I would have never built the relationship that
proved to be instrumental in getting him to where
he is academically today. Sara: My third year teaching,
my brother and his wife had a son and a month after he
ended up in intensive care. I just remember feeling
so isolated and I realized if I want
to be a great teacher and I want to be able
to be there for my kids,
I needed to make family here. Then I met my
husband, Kyle, and his family’s here so now
my family is here too. To be able to say I’m not
from here and I chose to stay and not just to stay but
like want to continue to grow here and have my own family
here, sends that message that like, “This isn’t a place
you can just give up on. It’s actually a great place to be
and I want to choose to be here.” Brandon: The statistics tell
us that for young people of color if they’re not
reading by the third grade, they are exponentially more
likely to end up involved with a criminal justice
system in some capacity. I’m fighting for the
future of my students. I want to be a mirror
for my students. I want my kids and their
families to know that there is someone who looks like
them, who’s always going to be in their corner,
who’s going to show up every single day ready to
work and ready to learn. The relationships that I’ve
been able to form with my students over the past
several years have been probably the most
fulfilling piece of my life because I know that it
makes a difference for them. Sara: People matter
and relationships matter and I think the greatest thing
we all have is each other. Brandon: Your relationship
with your student is the primary building block for everything
that happens in the classroom. Sara: I believe that I
have to make a difference. I’m no longer just
thinking about the next year, I’m thinking
about the next 10 or 20. What is my impacts going to be? Brandon: It’s given me
the opportunity to make an impact in a way that
no other profession could because the real change
doesn’t happen on Capitol Hill, it happens in the classroom
every single day.

About James Carlton

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