Have you had a certain person in your life affect you in a way that led you to do what you’re doing today?
I’m sure that most of us can immediately recall that particular moment when someone did or said something that changed the course of our lives.
For me, the people who crossed paths with me who made an impact in my life includes teachers. The first time a teacher made a huge effect on me was Mrs. Casey in the fourth grade.
It was my second year in the United States school system and I was still trying to perfect my English. I watched T.V. in English, spoke to kids as much as I could and took homework very seriously because I wanted to be able to better communicate with others.
My mother kept requesting I be placed into all English classes because she believed that I was ready. She also believed that the best way to learn English faster was to be completely integrated into English only classes. And she was right.
But the school didn’t think so. I remember Mrs. Casey took it upon herself to give me the test that kids had to take to be considered to move out of what they called back then the English as a Second Language (ESL) program because the school didn’t want to try.
So, when I passed that test and Mrs. Casey went to vouch for me to the principal and I was moved to an all English class. That changed my experience learning English. I learned a lot more of it much faster than the kids I’d been in ESL classes with and I always enjoyed English classes during my educational career.
The thing about teachers like Mrs. Casey is that they change lives simply because they care. They’re not aiming to purposely change someone’s lives, but it happens all the time.
When they make such a huge impact such as my teacher did, the impact is felt beyond the student. For example, my mother became much more hopeful that I’d have a better chance in education because she knew I’d be challenged just as all the other kids were.
Mrs. Casey’s actions allowed me to chose better classes through high school and if I would not have had those opportunities it probably would have taken me longer to earned a bachelor and master degrees in college.
Aside from my academics being impacted, I was able to gain self-esteem. Having been in ESL was like being in a “club of shame”. Most people won’t admit that that’s how non-English speaking kids are viewed.
They also won’t admit that they see non-English speaking kids or kids who have accents as less intelligent. It’s an incorrect assumption and stigma that follows, which is crazy because if you think about it, the ability to be able to learn a new language correctly although with an accent is a huge accomplishment that most English only speakers won’t do.
While programs like ESL (now called ELAC in many states) are meant to help kids’ confidence with getting out there and speaking English, in some schools, the children end up wanting to stay in it because it becomes their safe zone.
They see other children getting bullied or teased over their language and accent difference.
Hopefully, there are a lot more Mrs. Caseys out there who help those kids get out of that comfort zone so they can enjoy more opportunities.
Looking back at my own experience, I recognize that other educators at different stages of my life helped become the person I am.
While attending Montgomery College (Rockville), I met Dr. Moran – a very poised and extremely intelligent history professor who introduced me to Women & Gender Studies. I’ll never forget having to read her assigned book called, Bread Givers by Anzia Yezierszka.
The book’s message made me want to dive in deeper into the study of genders, so I decided to change my major to Women and Gender Studies. I transferred to Towson University and met Dr. Marihno.
Dr. Marihno is a firecracker of a lady. She’s outspoken, very intelligent, fearless, in her 70s and full of energy. She has a heavy New England accent and in the heat of passionate discussions, she would often say things in Portuguese.
I recall the day she told me I should apply to graduate school. I had already considered the possibility of going to school for a master’s degree, but I had a lot of doubt (due to my constant imposter syndrome).
So, she mentored me and recommended me for the dual bachelor/master’s program there at Towson and I got in!
Dr. Marihno mentored me until she retired and moved to Florida, but she’d email me while I was still in school and we still keep in touch.
Unfortunately, she didn’t see me graduate with my master’s degree, but if it hadn’t been for this wonderful lady, I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing today.
I hope to be someone’s Mrs. Casey, Dr. Moran or Dr. Marihno.
Paying It Forward
Because several have helped change the course of my life, I’ve purposely kept in mind that I must pay it forward by putting to use the teachings I received and the resources provided to me.
This is why I am trying very hard to create a job for myself that impacts people in a big way. I see a need for an anti-bullying program at the elementary school level to teach children how to know when they’re being bullied, as well as how to defend themselves and others.
But I can’t stop there. I am striving to help parents learn how to have the conversation about bullying with their small children in a way that kids will understand and implement the teachings.
Lastly, I want parents to know how they can prevent their kids from being the bully or being bullied as well as to advocate for their children.
Waiting until something happens is not an option.
Some parents believe that if it hasn’t been a problem with their child yet, then there’s no reason to learn about this epidemic. A lot of parents also don’t want to accept that bullying is an epidemic that’s growing larger and larger each school year.
The thing is, bullying is not always up-front in your face anymore. Social media and the internet has changed that.
Suicide rates have risen in large numbers and now, we’re seeing children at the elementary school level commit suicide because they can’t bear the terrible things being said about them or done to them.
Some of you reading this might think kids are just thin skinned, but anyone can break if there is a constant chatter of negative things about you – especially when it’s an entire school population.
Negative chatter breaks the human soul of any person regardless of their age.
So, I’m going to take all the things I’ve learned from all of my wonderful teachers and from all the organizations that have done something to help me learn to deliver my message as loud as possible.
I’ve been received with a lot of resistance by some people, but I won’t’ stop. I’ve also been received very well by people who have been bullied, by parents who want to prevent their kids from experiencing bullying and educators who see the need to work with the parents to reduce bullying and stereotypes that can lead to bullying.
If you have been given resources and mentorship by someone, are you paying it forward by giving it your all?
Let me know in the comments below. You never know, I might just ask you to be a guest on our website to share about all the awesomeness you’re putting out into the world.