Educators: What Made Them Want To Make A Difference In A School Environment?

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Some start looking for a job from a young age while still in high school. Even though they start working young, sometimes their first job isn’t the one for them and they hate going to their work. Others, on the other hand, wait until they graduate to get a job. But most people don’t know what they want their career to be, even during their senior year. They go to college and don’t finish the career they’re studying for because they realized it isn’t for them. Selecting a career is a different experience for everyone. Some have known since they were kids what they want their dream career to be, and they set their minds to it. Others don’t have any idea what to do with their lives and have multiple jobs before finally finding a career they love going to every day.

“I always wanted to help people and believe that teaching is one of the best ways to achieve that,” said Ms.Kelly Ichaso.

“Teaching is my second career. It was not the career that I was interested in when I was young. I wanted to be an oceanographer and my guidance counselor advised me that girls did not become scientists. Unfortunately, I listened to her and went on to college to study conservation (ironically a science – so I am now a scientist). That was the first and last time that I listened to and followed bad advice,” said Mrs.Patricia DeSantis.

“No, when I was in elementary school I wanted to be a teacher.  I did go to college and got my teaching degree.  I taught for several years before deciding to get a Master’s degree in library,” said librarian Mrs. Jennifer Cook.

“Yes, I always planned to be some kind of teacher,” said Ms.Lisa Henry.

“I never thought about counseling or the helping field. I just fell into it because I did not perform well in school, and decided to learn what degree would permit me to graduate the earliest. It ended up being psychology,” said counselor Amanda Ferentinos.

Before getting to the jobs they have now, some educators had other jobs that they liked. Once they found the career they have now, they knew that was what they really wanted to be doing.

“Teaching is not a big career change from what I was doing before,” said Ms.Kelley Ichaso.

” Prior to becoming a teacher I was a pioneer and held the title of director and worked at a telecommunications start-up during the dot.com period (1995 – 2000). The start up was a division of Sprint, and we built the first cell phone network (what makes your cell phone work today) in the Washington, D.C., Baltimore, MD, and Delaware Beach areas. We later went on to build cell phone networks for Sprint in Boston, MA, New Orleans, LA, Little Rock, AR, Memphis, TN, Lake of the Ozarks, MO, and Puerto Rico. Basically, within a 5 year period, I worked myself out of a job and retired young. Sprint offered to pay for alternative training/college degrees and my skills and prior education transferred well to teaching.” said Mrs. Patricia DeSantis.

“Yes, I taught 4th, 1st, and kindergarten.  I was also an elementary librarian before taking the high school position,” said librarian Jennifer Cook.

“I taught piano for 8 years and then worked at a mortgage company for 3 years,” said Ms.Henry.

“As it ended up, I could not really do much of anything with the undergraduate degree, so I went back and got a Master’s degree that allowed me to start a career as a therapist in my late 20s. I worked with youth and families with substance abuse issues and was a family therapist for a while. I did that for a couple of years but was raising my daughter alone and thought it would be a good idea to get on the same schedule as my daughter so I got a job that allowed me to work during the hours that she would be at school. Best decision I could have made,” said Amanda Ferentinos.

Those who change careers might need to restart their progress and go back to school to get other degrees or get training but it’s the effort they make to get to the career they know is the right one for them.

“Before I could teach, I needed to go to college. When my youngest child began elementary school, I began my university career,” said Ms.Kelley Ichaso.

“As a teacher – we are constantly learning. I have the following degrees: (a) an undergraduate degree majoring in conservation with a minor in geology, (b) a Master’ of Education, and (c) a Master’s of Oceanography. I also have many other graduate credits issued from Yale and MIT in Engineering,” said Mrs.Patricia DeSantis.

“Since I already had a Bachelor’s degree in education, I needed to take more classes and get my Master’s degree in school library media.” said librarian Jennifer Cook.

“I made the decision to work for the school system and eventually went back to school to become a school counselor. The schooling was fun and interesting. I had to obtain a Master’s degree in school counseling and it was great to go back to school as a young mother. I loved learning and being with other students. My daughter was 7 at this point, and my mom and dad helped me a lot so that I could study. The degree program was about thirty hours which is about 10 Master’s level courses. It took about 2 or 2 and a half years to finish.” said Ms. Amanda Ferentinos.

“I went back to school to get my teacher licensure and also got my Master’s in education,” said Ms.Henry.

Some originally thought they wanted to be working in a different field, but then they realized different paths and careers that they could be doing instead, and those became their dream jobs.

“Originally, I thought about teaching science, but I am not very good at math. Also, at this point I had fallen in love with learning about Spanish language and culture and wanted to share that with students,” said Ms.Kelley Ichaso.

“I retired young and still found an interest in working, so I went back to graduate school as a full-time student for 2 years and became a licensed and certified teacher.” said Mrs.Patricia DeSantis.

“After being a classroom teacher for several years, I knew I needed a change.  I loved being in education and working with kids but reading was my passion.  I figured that being a librarian would be perfect.” said Mrs. Jennifer Cook.

“I really ended up loving so many things about my career so far. It is interesting and positive as you can help other people and the opportunity to learn new things to help others is maybe the most important thing that my career offers,” said Ferentinos.

“I have always believed that language learning are important for everyone. Even as a stay-at-home mom, my children and I were always listening to a variety of languages on cassettes from the library. I wanted them to hear as many languages as they could and to have an appreciation for people that speak other languages. I feel like my job is an extension of what I have always done, just with a focus on Spanish instead of a variety of languages,” said Ms. Kelley Ichaso.

“When I taught a lesson and saw the lightbulb over a student’s head, the ah-ha moment, I realized I just taught something new to someone else. There is no better feeling than how great that moment is,” said Mrs.DeSantis.

“The fact that my favorite part of the day teaching was reading with and to students made me want to be a librarian.  Also, I enjoyed seeing students get excited about reading; I connected students to books that they really liked,” said Mrs. Jennifer Cook.

“The work hours and the opportunity to meet so many wonderful and kind students in a school setting is also incredible. I have loved my experience as a school counselor but I will most likely make a career change to practice therapy or clinical work at some point. The largest concern that I have as a school counselor is no time to provide the help needed, as we have anywhere from 250 to 300 students to try to work with, and that does not leave the time I would like to be able to be super-supportive of our students. Clinical work affords you the opportunity to really provide support because you are focusing on treatment plans to help your students as opposed to scheduling, program delivery, and other requirements of a school counseling position,”  said Ferentinos.

“At first, I left teaching piano to use my math degree. I wanted to try something different. Then I missed teaching and working with kids. I always enjoyed working with students and want to help make math easier and make connections with students. It’s all about the students when it comes to teaching,” said Ms.Henry.

So what advice do these educators have for students?

“My advice for students that are ready to start their career is to check out the requirements needed, ask people that do that job if they like it, and learn what the job entails on a day-to-day basis. If you do what you love and have a true passion for doing it you will be much happier.” said Ms.Kelley Ichaso.

“My advice – follow your heart, work hard, learn all you can, be flexible, and take advantage of the opportunities offered to you.” said Mrs.Patricia DeSantis.

“When I was in college there wasn’t a degree you could get to be a school librarian.  I had no idea that was a different position within education.  While going to high school, I never really thought about that position.  Once I was a teacher and worked with librarians, I realized that would be a job that I would really like.  I suggest to students, research different careers.  Look for ones that have tasks that you enjoy and then see what education is required.  Most people don’t find their perfect jobs right away.  It takes time working in different positions before you find one that is perfect for you. I love kids and reading! Perfect job for me!” said Cook.

“I would strongly encourage people to really investigate what the job will look like and feel like. I know that not everyone is cut out for doing work that involves emotionality. I would also encourage you to really look at options and make an educated guess at what is in your best interest. For example, becoming a psychiatrist requires a lot of additional education, but you are likely to make a great deal of money,” said Ferentinos.

“Follow your dream. If you have a passion, do that or work towards it. If you enjoy what you do, you’ll love going to work every day. It is not fun going to a job you do not enjoy,” concluded Henry.