September 2017 Issue
August 31, 2017

Why teach?

Author: By Sylvia Saunders
Source: NYSUT United
This fall, Dharini Adhvaryu begins her first year teaching biology full-time to ninth-graders at Lansingburgh High School. Watch her talk about her calling to the teaching profession when she spoke at a TEACH-NY forum.
Caption: This fall, Dharini Adhvaryu begins her first year teaching biology full-time to ninth-graders at Lansingburgh High School. Watch her talk about her calling to the teaching profession when she spoke at a TEACH-NY forum: Photo by El-Wise Noisette.

People kept telling Dharini Adhvaryu not to become a teacher.

A promising biology major at a highly competitive private college, she was always intent on studying science — even attending a DNA summer camp while in high school on Long Island. She always thought she'd become a researcher in botany, burying her head in her studies in the corner of a laboratory.

But her dream changed after she started working as a teaching assistant in the college's freshman bio lab and found it incredibly rewarding.

"I said to myself, 'Hey, the most satisfying day I have had all year was not when my experiment worked, but when theirs did."

When she shared her plans with advisers, she was stunned by their reaction. "They told me I had too much potential to go into teaching ... That I could do so much more with what I knew."

She found that advice really sad and frustrating.

"If we know so much and we're good at what we do, why shouldn't we share that?" she said. "Why shouldn't we be inspiring the next generation and the next one after that to love learning and perhaps be scientists?"

It was then she realized why teaching was her calling: "I could be one scientist — or I could be a teacher and I could raise hundreds."

After completing her master's degree in teaching at Union Graduate College, now Clarkson University, and working part-time as a science teacher at Schenectady High School, Adhvaryu is excited to start her first full-time teaching job this fall at Lansingburgh High School.

"I just love the thrill of getting them to get it," Adhvaryu said.

She is not alone in expressing great hope and optimism for the teaching profession.

"In my culture, teachers are highly respected," Adhvaryu said. "My parents were so proud for me to become a teacher. If we as a society appreciate the work that teachers do, it will make the profession more rewarding and encourage more people to become teachers. It will make our impact even greater."

In response to NYSUT United's story in June about the state's looming teacher shortage, educators told us why they entered the profession, why they still love teaching and what they would say to encourage new and future teachers.

Here are some excerpts:

"Positivity. There is no better way to impact the future of this nation than to be a role model for kids. Think of your best teachers, coaches or other adults — other than your parents — who have helped make you who you are today. Be one of those people and pay it forward."
— Michael Struchen, Indian River Education Association

"The most rewarding career you could ever choose ... teaching is a profession that is conducted through your heart. Join your union, be part of your union, participate in your union. It is the most important thing you can do for your career."
—Jamy Brice-Hyde, Horseheads TA

"It's a job you'll love to hate. You WILL make a difference in the lives you touch.
— Karen Woodring, BOCES Educational Support Personnel Association

"Every job is challenging! Being a teacher is a special challenge and every day helping the future generation learn more about a topic that you love is SO worth it!"
— Tamara Edwards-Wilson, Westbury TA

"You know you're doing it right when it doesn't feel like work, like a job. It is a career, a vocation, a calling, and when it fits, you know it. And that is one of the best feelings you can have as a professional and an educator."
— Kurt Hassenpflug, North Colonie TA

"The desire needs to come from the heart. And when it does, you'll have chosen a job you LOVE and never WORK a day in your life!"
— Linda Yankowski, Hyde Park retiree

"There is no greater profession than teaching. As a child it provided me with so much and it still does today."
— Tom McMahon, Mahopac TA

"Teaching is a very rewarding job when you see how you are helping students learn and grow. There is never enough time in a day which makes the days fly by. I've worked desk jobs where you watch the clock all day long and wish it was time to go. Teaching is the opposite. You watch the clock and wish you had more time!"
— Jen Fraser, South Jefferson TA

"WE NEED YOU! Teaching is second only to parenting in terms of sacrifice and reward."
— Rhea Ummi Modeste, UFT

"When I eliminate the 'noise' of administrative, testing, APPR, defending/justifying academic freedom, I love teaching students. There are dozens of reasons this profession is awesome; one of the most rewarding reasons to teach is to watch a student become an adult and to know that we (teachers) helped launch him/her into the world."
— Heather Streeter Bellevillle- Henderson TA

"Be in it for the students — not the money. We work to inspire the people who will fix the future."
— Casey Jakubowski, UUP-Albany

"I would show them letters I have received from former students that show the rewards and I will tell them there is no better feeling in the world than helping a student reach their potential and face a challenge with success."
— Lori Atkinson Griffin, Copenhagen TA

"My daughter and son-in-law both recently joined our profession. I tell them to keep their chins up. Try to ignore the difficult administrators, parents and colleagues. It's very hard to be a teacher but it's worth it for the children. They are the reason we go into teaching and they deserve our best.
— Nancy Eaton, Webster TA

"Our country needs you to keep democracy alive! We need dedicated people to help kids think critically, develop a strong work ethic and create vibrant communities where people can thrive. After 38 years in the classroom, I can honestly say teaching was my vocation, my passion and worth the efforts."
— Sue Haag, Union Springs TA

"The future of teaching will most likely involve more local choices and bring more opportunities for out-of-the-box teaching ideas."
— Brandon Lyon, Johnstown FA

"Stay with it if you're ready for a bumpy ride. It is beautiful to teach students, but it is a very long and difficult journey to get there." — Alanna Majewski, Lowville TA

"It takes at least five years to find a niche. Network with your peers and senior educators. Communicate clearly your goals for students and parents. Give your best unreservedly and continue despite setbacks."
— Rita Bhatt, UFT retiree

"Teaching is truly one of the most rewarding jobs out there and when you are allowed to do it, there isn't a greater feeling in the world."
— Erika Bosworth, Deposit TA

"Pace yourself so you won't burn out. Have a life outside of the school day. Teaching gets easier."
— Catherine Root, Corning TA

"It is probably one of the most challenging professions and will test you to your limit, but stick with it and the rewards are endless."
— Thei Cherry, UFT

"The students are why we do what we do, and helping them to succeed can be one of the most rewarding experiences that there is."
— John Cain, Copenhagen TA

"You will be broke and stressed, but you will still love your job."
— Connie Catherman, West Canada Valley TA

"Talk with veteran teachers. When I run into former students and they talk about their successes and how I influenced their life, it makes it all worthwhile. The media and the 'reformers' can never take that away from me."
— Rebecca Pordum, Buffalo TF