Teaching as a Community Service

“Oh, you’re in school? What for?”
“Oh, so you want to be a teacher…” 

This was a conversation I had many times during my undergraduate career at NU. Truth be told, teaching was not my first choice for how I wanted to use my education. I envisioned a career in government, maybe in foreign affairs. Despite my decent grades, work experience and my application to several government agencies, I was not selected. I tried applying to a handful of civil service opportunities and history-related positions…nothing.

I was getting discouraged, but then I realized that I had one common feeling every time I applied for a new job, no matter what job I applied for: I wanted to keep serving my community.

What better way to do that than to become a teacher?

I should clarify my desire to “keep serving my community.” I am a full-time paramedic and have been for the last 13 years. I’m also a veteran of volunteer fire service. I’m not the stereotypical student one would expect to walk into a university classroom. I am 33 years old, a husband and father. I work full time, overnights at that. I have more gray hair than I am willing to admit. I unsuccessfully hide it by keeping my hair short. I wear a uniform for a living and, because of that, I rarely dress up and have relatively zero fashion sense. I have tattoos on my right forearm.

Now, while I may not sound like an aesthetically pleasing teacher candidate, I can guarantee one thing: while enrolled in my master’s degree program in secondary education at NU, I plan on becoming the best teacher I can be. I want to do the job the right way, every time. This is a work ethic instilled in me by my father, a 34-year military veteran. It’s a philosophy that has served me well through my emergency services career. As long as I hold true to my values, I cannot fail and I will serve my community honorably and effectively.

In my mind, that’s what being a teacher is all about - serving the people of the community by educating their children, our next generation. It also goes beyond teaching academic subjects. I want to model for my future students that being true to themselves and doing the right thing will help them to become successful people. As an aspiring social studies teacher, I plan on using the curriculum as well as real-life experiences (especially my own) to do just that.

Woody Allen once said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” That quote describes my life in a nutshell. I thought my life was going to follow a specific path that I had set up for myself: play football for Notre Dame, join the military, become a career police officer or firefighter.

Even though I have done none of that, I can still confidently say that I am happy with how my life has turned out. I am happy that I help people every day. I am happy that God’s plan steered me to NU. I am thrilled to be back in the classroom and I am genuinely enjoying my program. My cohort is made up of a great group of people and the professors in the education department are as great as my former professors in the history department. Though sometimes the coursework can be overwhelming and my work schedule becomes exhausting, I will not quit. This university is where I belong and I have found the career that is meant for me.

Thanks for reading. God Bless.