Teacher of Champions
East Palo Alto, CA
I have taught doctors, professors, missionaries, superstars and champions. These distinguished titles and more are placed beside student names on their name tags.
“How does Samantha get to school? They have to block off 101!” My 8th grade class erupted in laughter. With my head hung low, I vowed I would make it my mission that young people would not feel as I felt on that day and on many days prior. Thus, I became a teacher. Teaching had always been a dream of mine. As a youngster, I would ask my teachers for their outdated teacher’s editions so I could instruct my dolls as they sat in a row along my bed. In those early years, becoming an educator was a desire based on my positive experiences with excellent teachers who encouraged me and pushed me to new heights. However on that day in eighth grade, it expanded to include a sense of urgency to build the self-esteem and self-confidence in children regardless of their differences.
A month after graduating from UC Davis with degrees in English and Sociology, I began teaching at Belle Haven Elementary in Menlo Park which is part of the Ravenswood City School District based in East Palo Alto. Teaching at Belle Haven was a way for me to give back to the community where I had and still call my home. Almost three years later, I received a call from the incoming principal of Saint Elizabeth Seton School: my academic home from kindergarten to eighth grade. She invited me to come interview for the second grade teaching position. A serious bout of both excitement and anxiety overwhelmed me. Would the expectations be higher for me as the first alum and first African American classroom teacher at the school? Was I up to the challenge?
Two events influenced my decision to became a member of Seton’s faculty: September 11th 2001 and prayer. While at Belle Haven, the tragedy of September 11th occurred. I happened to be ill that day and away from my students. However, when I returned, my third graders asked me why God would allow such an event to happen. I could not respond with my heart because of the legalities separating church and state. I wanted to comfort them the way my 13 years of formal parochial schooling and Pentecostal upbringing molded me. Months later in my interview at Seton, the first act of the principal was to pray. It was at that moment, I knew Seton was where I should be and so it has been for the past 11 years.
I have never regretted my decision. I have come full circle in my career. I started with teaching for my community of East Palo Alto and now I am at Seton, my alma mater. I have taught doctors, professors, missionaries, superstars and champions. These distinguished titles and more are placed beside student names on their name tags. I currently teach heroes and heroines. In each moment, students are reminded that they are beautiful, intelligent, college-bound and loved.
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