I believe it is important to build connections and relationships. As a child, what motivated mean to learn were those personal connections and relationships with teachers. If I felt a teacher cared about me, I would work extra hard, as I didn't want to let them down. Given my home environment at the time, education in a lot of ways, saved me. I was an only child and, for the most part, the center of my parents' attention. This could be both good and bad. I had a few close friends. Neither of my parent's finished high school. Both had emigrated from Canada to the U.S. My dad worked in construction and my mom stayed at home and occasionally had a part-time job. She eventually went to night school to complete high school and took a few community college courses. Both wanted me to get a good education, but were not exactly sure what was involved and how the process worked. My mom would attend school functions and events. My dad seemed to never have time. Although I'm certain my parents loved me, they both drank and fought a lot. The arguments were so bad I'd often sneak out of my window and go to a friend's house to spend the night. As soon as I was old enough to work, I got a job while in high school through Long Beach Parks and Recreation. I discovered I loved working with children and eventually saved enough money to buy a used car. I took classes at the community college at night while in high school during the day, partly to get out of the house. During the summers, I worked at summer camps through Parks and Recreation and eventually became a lifeguard and swim instructor. While working at Jordan High School one summer, I noticed a group of students with various learning disabilities in the shallow end of the pool. I spoke with the head counselor who brought them there and told him I teach swimming. I currently had no students and saw this as an excellent opportunity. They looked at me like I was crazy. I also had no training in adaptive aquatics or how to work with students with disabilities at the time. The counselors agreed I could work with the students and told me a bit about each one and the type of disability. I worked individually with a few of their students, about 30 minutes each Saturday. The other lifeguards often referred to my students as "my special group." One of the students' who was initially scared of the water, I eventually taught how to swim. I was quite proud of myself and many of the counselors were excited and surprised as well.
Trust is the Basis for Student Success and Progress
I believe that trust is the basis for student success and progress. Once you build a community where everyone feels safe, welcomed, and valued, you can make a difference. All children can learn and deserve the opportunity for a good education. The challenge and joy in teaching is to find what works for each child.
I continued working in adaptive aquatics and continued to teach swimming until I moved from Long Beach and went off to college. While at UCSD, I transitioned from teaching swimming to teaching scuba diving. While teaching scuba, I had the opportunity to take a group of hearing impaired students on a tour of the underwater canyon. I felt left out, everyone was talking (signing) underwater and I only knew a few underwater signals. Given my love of teaching, I eventually decided to get a credential. All of the jobs I loved involved teaching in one capacity or another.