Confessions of a Public School Teacher: Why I Teach
Guest article written by Amanda Austin, 5th grade teacher
Why I Teach
The moment I knew I was going to become an educator was when I had the chance to experience a service-learning course during my last year of college, I volunteered my time at a local elementary school, located in an area which was considered to be plagued with poverty and violence. I volunteered in a fifth grade classroom where I ended up forming a lasting friendship with the teacher.
I can remember one afternoon a student asked me where I attended college. I told him I attended Louisiana State University. My college and this school were located less than five minutes away from each other. And as a total surprise and shock to me, these students had never visited this campus. They thought only white students attended Louisiana State University. Their point of view was so limited and sheltered because of their experiences. I saw these children who lived in poverty; society would deem them as “at risk” children, limited by their circumstances. I knew then they needed a role model who could expose them too more than the community around them.
As an educator for the past seven years, I have had the privilege of working in magnet schools, as well as high-needs schools. When I began my teaching career, I was placed in a Title I elementary school with students who were economically disadvantaged in southwest Louisiana. I walked into my first year of teaching with as an alternative teaching certified educator. At the time, I held an undergraduate degree in Sociology with a concentration in Criminology. In other words, I knew nothing about curriculum, pacing guides, or standards. However, I knew if something didn’t change in education, more and more African American males and females would possibly enter the criminal justice system.
If only I knew then what I know now, maybe I would have been more prepared for what I was going to face in my classroom. On a daily basis, I encountered students who battled parent absenteeism, gangs, and lack of exposure to the world beyond their “gated” housing development. As a first year teacher, I was probably not the most effective; but I did know how to bring love, care, passion, and survival skills to many. Surviving the school year without shedding any tears or getting verbally attacked by a parent was a challenge. My goal was to equip my students with the necessary skills and tools to one day become successful and productive citizens of society.
The reason I became an educator and my rationale for continuing my path in education are unchanged. Today, I teach for those children at that elementary school in which I first volunteered almost seven years ago. I educate children and expose them to a world outside of their local communities and provide guidance in hopes they will choose the right path.
I am currently serving the children of the East Baton Rouge School System as a 5th grade Instructor at Mayfair Laboratory School. For the past seven years, I have had the pleasure of educating students from at-risk communities to magnet schools. I am at a point in my career in which I am ready to transition to leadership.
I have earned a Bachelor’s of Arts in Sociology with a concentration in Criminology and a minor in African and African American Studies. I also hold an alternative teaching certification and a Master’s of Arts in Teaching Elementary Education, along with an endorsement in Educational Leadership. I recently completed my Doctor of Education degree in Educational Leadership from Lamar University. I graduated in December of 2015. My studies centered on principal leadership behaviors that led a Title I school to achieve significant academic gains.