I was 16 years old when I discovered my passion. I had my first job as a camp counselor at a day camp in my town. My two co-counselors and I were in charge of a group of 18 six-year-olds. We dealt with everything that summer. Wet pants, poop on the toilet seat, underwear stuck on top of the door, you name it. And I loved every minute. I would go home every evening exhausted but ecstatic, recounting all of the funny things the children had said to me that day to my parents, like when a kid knocked on my bathroom door just to tell me he was saying “hi.” I began to realize that no matter how tired they made me, no matter how much sweat and blood they drew from me, working with these kids was making me happier than I’d ever been. I remember thinking to myself one afternoon, “I wish I could be a camp counselor forever,” only to realize a split second later that I kind of could. I could make a career out of working with children. I could teach.
This newfound realization only proved to grow as I continued to work at the camp and took advantage of more opportunities to work with children. I mentored students on viola, tutored a little girl in reading and took a service trip to Tanzania where I taught English in a primary school. This is when my passion began to move from merely loving to work with children to loving to teach them as well. I couldn’t shake the feeling that even the little things I was teaching these kids would stick with them for their entire lives. Helping that girl learn to read is something that will have a profound impact on her for as long as she lives. When I was playing with one of the little girls in Tanzania after class one day she turned to me and said, “I write better because of you," which is something that has stuck with me to this day. Even something as simple as teaching these kids to sound out letters would be giving them a gift that they could use to progress in life.
Not only am I able to impact individual kids as a teacher but through the classroom setting I’m able to touch the lives of the next generation. It is literally the closest thing there is to changing the future. I may not be curing cancer, or solving world hunger, but I can teach kids to read so that they go on to cure cancer and solve world hunger. Through this sort of ripple effect, I am touching more lives by cultivating the lives of others who will go on to leave lasting impacts on even more people.
I also believe that education is one of the best ways to reach every child, or as close to that as possible. By this, I mean that some children will invariably always come from home environments that are less than substantial. However, one thing that (virtually) all kids have in common is that they go to school. Therefore, teachers have the perfect opportunity to provide that structure, nurturing environment and guidance a child might otherwise be missing.
In this way, I believe that education is one of the most important routes a person can choose to take as it has such a profound impact on both individual lives and society at a greater level.