Remember those college entrance essays, the ones that asked, "What are your career goals?" When I sat down as a senior in high school to write my response, I was lucky that my mother had kept a scrap of paper from my childhood, a quick anecdotal record from my 4th year of life. When I was four, I knew exactly what my career goals were: I was going to be an animal doctor, a ballerina, and a tuba player. By the time I was in 2nd grade, however, I'd modified my dreams to reflect my growing intellectual achievements: Ms. Thomas had just taught us what a paleontologist was, and I was going to be one.
By the end of high school, when I was writing those college entrance essays, I knew that my real dreams did not include dinosaur bones or giant brass instruments. I wanted to be a teacher. And I still know that teaching is the career, and the life, for me.
I've always been dra
wn to teaching. So I tried to get as much experience in the field as I could. I started tutoring in high school, mostly for elementary students who were struggling with reading. In college, I tutored recent Ru
Russian-speaking immigrants from the former Soviet Union, helping them gain both the English-language and cultural skills that they would need to survive in the US. I spent a summer in Cairo, Egypt teaching English to Sudanese refugees, and while I was studying abroad in St. Petersburg, Russia I volunteered to teach English to students at St. Petersburg State University. I took paying jobs related to education where I could, including teaching a Russian conversation class at my college and working during the summers at the State Parks giving interpretive programs to park visitors.
After I graduated from college, I knew I wanted to pursue teaching as a career, but I wanted some more experience under my belt before going to graduate school. So I applied for the Peace Corps. While I waited for my application to go
through, I worked for a year as an Instruction
al Assistant at a middle school and continued to volunteer tutoring recent immigrants in English, this time with Spanish-speaking immigrants. Once I was accepted to the Peace Corps, I headed off to Kazakhstan, a large country in Central Asia, to spend two years teaching English in a rural village school.
My experience as an English teacher in Kazakhstan was invaluable. I was able to learn so much about how to run a classroom and how to plan lessons that got students engaged and active in their learning. I learned about cooperation and collaboration when I team taught my lessons with local English teachers, and also when I planned teacher trainings with other Peace Corps volunteers. Finally, I learned so much about how to live in a foreign culture and how to balance respect for that culture with a drive to improve, both personally and professionally.
My time in the Peace Corps illuminated for me not only a love for education, but specifically for multicultural education. I can relate to the struggle of many ELLs in America, because I went through the same struggle learning Russian and learning about Kazakhstani culture. Therefore, I decided to get certified in ESOL as well so that I can assist students from all cultures succeed.