The two main forces that shape my teaching beliefs are my education and my experiences as an educator. Subsequently, my beliefs are evolving as I continue to acquire more education and gain more teaching experience.
One of the reasons I am so passionate about education and education policy is because I am the product of a long series of passionate, skilled public school teachers that have made me who I am now by helping me discover my interests and nurturing my skills to pursue my passions. Mrs. Stalnaker taught us how to write essays in the fourth grade, and I wrote my first book when I was eleven. Mr. Hawkins showed us that learning didn’t have to just come from a textbook, structuring our classes around chess game strategies and in-class reading hours. Finally, Mr. Tally merged English class with a study in his favorite humanities disciplines, making my four high school years under his curriculum an exploration of the Greek gods, American history, and the study of psychology.
I grew up in El Centro, California, one of the poorest communities in the United States, yet, I had one of the best educations one could hope for. Part of this was due to my father; he moved our family in order to be in the district of what was rumored to be the best grade school in the city. He fought for my admission into a program for advanced learners, even when the school wanted to deny me due to my shyness. Basically, he knew the value of education, and he loved me, and he wouldn’t take no for an answer when it came to ensuring the quality of my education. If only everyone had such an advocate in their lives, this world would be a different place.
My graduate education at the Heinz School of Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University tied my previous education experience together by teaching me what education policy is, and why it is so hard to create through the reading of the best education research in the country. I discovered, through this educational experience, my passion for educational policy, and made it the focus of my internship at Americans for the Arts and my master’s thesis.
When I began teaching theatre marketing at San Diego State University, I realized that the theories of the major educational researchers haunted me as I interacted with the students, in the best possible way, reminding me to ask my students questions, make it clear to them that I believed in them and I wanted them to try, and constructing a challenging course for them. My education also helped me forgive myself for not being perfect in my first year of teaching, the hardest year for teachers, but also to expect much more from myself as a teacher as I become more experienced.
I say my thanks every day to my dad, my teachers, and my experiences for giving me the tools to be a good teacher to someone else. And that, I suppose, is my most important teaching belief: To be my best, because teachers are the core of education, and students are its heart.