Why Educators Love What They Do: In Their Own Words

Why Educators Love What They Do: In Their Own Words

Kevin Costner’s For Love of the Game is one of my all-time favorite movies.

It’s not what you might expect from a baseball movie — there aren’t many diving catches in the outfield, contested plays at home plate, or spine tingling speeches in the clubhouse.

It’s just the story of a guy who loves what he does.

To borrow a quote from another sports movie, “How can you not be romantic about baseball?”

I’m reminded of For Love of the Game when I talk to educators . . .

When it comes to career choices, one can’t help but wonder, Why would someone choose to become an educator? The days are long, the compensation is underwhelming, and the thank-yous can be elusive.

But to talk to educators is to discover they don’t do what they do for the pay or for the praise, they do it because . . . well, they do it because they love it.

They love the challenges. They love their students. They love making a difference.

I know this because we talked to a few educators and posed this simple two-word question: Why education?

It’s a pretty open ended-question that could be interpreted a number of ways: Why did you choose this career? Why is it important? What’s in it for you? Why do you love it?

Here’s what our panel of six educators and UWorld content writers had to say . . . 

The “Because of You” Conversation

It was my last day of my first year of teaching. I was tired; it had been a tough year. I didn’t have my own room and had to cart my stuff around, using other teachers’ rooms on their conference periods.

Most of my students didn’t care about learning, and I had become very discouraged. But as I was packing up, I noticed one of my students — we’ll call him Julio — had tracked me down. He had really improved from the beginning of the year, and he said something to me that I’ll never forget:

“Because of you, I want to go to college. I want to make something of myself.”

It was at that moment I realized why I had chosen teaching as a career: to make a difference to that one individual student, to get someone as excited about learning as I was. Changing the course of this one life was all that I needed to know that my whole year had been worthwhile.

-Melanie White (English Teacher, 10th Grade)

All the Hard Work Pays Off

My high school teacher inspired me to become an educator. She taught calculus in a way that was fun and accessible. I had always enjoyed math, but her class solidified it as my favorite subject. Why wouldn’t I want to spend my career immersed in my favorite subject while also fostering a passion for mathematics in my students? It seemed like a no-brainer.

What I didn’t realize at the start of my career as a high school math teacher was that being an educator demands so much more than just the love of a subject. Over time, I learned that building relationships with students based on trust, consistency, and respect is key to becoming a successful educator.

These relationships take time and hard work, and starting over each year with a new set of students was never easy. However, the moment a student first confides in you, or makes a breakthrough in understanding a difficult concept, or decides they like math a little bit more than before — all the hard work pays off. I believe that being an educator can be the hardest, yet most rewarding career.

My students have made a lasting impact on me, and I hope to have done the same for some of them.

-Jessica Meyer (High School Math Teacher)

A Privilege I Never Took for Granted

Teachers go into education because they love to see students grow educationally and emotionally. Principals also go into being principals because they love to see students grow, but when you’re a principal you get the opportunity to see hundreds, or even thousands, of students grow each year.

Yes, you don’t get to know all the students in the same way as their teachers do, but if you make it a priority, you can still find those chances to support students, listen to their goals and struggles, and help to either connect them to the right resources or be another adult in their life that is cheering them on! 

Oftentimes, students would come to me when they had a REALLY big problem, or when they’d found themselves in some serious hot water.  It was my job to help identify a path to get them to a better place and hold them accountable for navigating that path successfully.  It was challenging, fun, and very gratifying work.

Watching students process their missteps and learn how to overcome their mistakes is a privilege that I never took for granted.

There were also some really huge perks to the principal gig like sideline tickets to all the big games and performances, hosting graduation, and watching students walk across that stage, with their heads held high and filled with the confidence that they could take on the world! 

-Philip Bates (High School Principal)

“Light Bulb” Moments

In 8th grade, I decided that I was not a “math person”. Algebra. I think this is where it happens for many people.  

My teacher, Mr. DiCicco, was not the most popular among my fellow students. However, he was patient, consistently calm, good at math, and available after school every day for any student who needed extra help. Those afternoons included many “Light bulb!” moments for me. 

With his help, I discovered that I am a math person after all. More importantly, he taught me to be a self-learner. I began learning how to find answers to questions on my own. After 8th grade, I moved to a different school. I never saw Mr. DiCicco again after that year, but he truly changed the course of my life.  

I enjoy being around young people starting out in life, learning what they are interested in, being a part of their school community. I became a teacher so that I could make a difference for students who decide at some point that they are not math people. 

What I enjoy most about teaching is being there when students experience their own “Light bulb!” moments and helping them grow from students into life-long learners.

-Joan Lester (Pre-AP Algebra Teacher)

Changing How a Student Sees Their Future

What I love about teaching is watching how success in academics can change students’ whole outlook. 

It gives me joy to help a student find new interest and confidence in a subject in which they had previously struggled. 

I love the moment when a student realizes that they are actually good at something they once believed was too difficult for them. 

When they see they can overcome intellectual hurdles to achieve success, it changes how they see themselves and their future.

-Alice Ivas (Elementary English, High School Tutor, College English)

When Your Students Decide To Become Teachers

One of the things I love most about teaching high school is watching young people figure themselves out, and sometimes getting to be part of it. 

It could be a kid who didn’t think he was AP material until you asked him to transfer into your class, or a girl who didn’t have the courage to break up with a bad boyfriend until she read that book you assigned. 

It could be the military dependent who was in her third high school and didn’t have friends until you put her in that group project, or that young man who enjoyed your mock trial team so much that he got an internship at a law firm, which then gave him a full scholarship for college and grad school. 

I am able to keep up with many former students on Facebook and it’s touching  to learn that several became English teachers because of my class. 

As fulfilling as it is to know you have made a difference in your students’ lives, it’s also just been fun to get to know so many insightful, kind, humorous and sometimes downright goofy human beings. These relationships have also been important in my own maturity and development.  

Leading a classroom requires a high degree of emotional intelligence. And it’s been transformative to engage with people whose cultural backgrounds are so different from my own.  

Being a teacher means that you will know more about the human experience because you will have formed deep bonds with so many, diverse people. I guess you could say that being a teacher helped me figure myself out in many ways, and my students were indeed the biggest part of that growth.

-Kristina McCalip (English Language and Composition Teacher, 11th Grade)

At UWorld, we are committed to helping educators do what they do best: make a difference in the lives of their students by helping each student reach his or her full potential.

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With perfectly modeled College Board-level questions, concise answer explanations, and easy-to-access performance monitoring, our supplemental online learning tool will help you take your AP education to the next level. Discover how we can help your program today.

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