The other day, a student asked me why I became a teacher. I had to pause for a moment, not because I didn’t know the answer, but because I didn’t know how to answer it simply or concisely. You see, the reason I became a teacher is largely due to these three people: Pam Tobin, Aedon Young, and Mercedes Luby.
Mme Tobin was my Grade 6 teacher. She taught us Intensive Core French at Larkhall, and from day one sparked in me a passion for the French language. I had always loved school but Grade 6, in particular, was such an overwhelmingly positive experience. Pam’s enthusiasm for French, along with the activities and games she planned for us, made learning a new language fun and exciting. What also stands out about her was the relationships she formed with each student. Pam took the time to connect with each of us individually, in a way that I had never experienced before as a student. It felt like she wanted to get to know and appreciate each of us as people, and not just evaluate our performance in class or whether we had met the curriculum outcomes. This had such a profound impact on our class dynamic that we all came to feel like a loving family. I think I drove my family, and anyone else who would listen, nuts that year with my constant stories about Mme Tobin and how amazing she was. It was sitting in Pam’s class one day that I first thought that I might like to become a teacher myself. I realized that I’d like to make other students feel the way she made me feel, and I shared her same excitement about French and could imagine myself sharing that with a group of students some day. I’ll forever be grateful for that moment of realization, and to Pam for having sparked it.
In Grade 7, I met Aedon Young. Our French teacher went on maternity leave after Christmas and she was her replacement. I had no idea then that she would go on to become one of my dearest friends in adulthood. Aedon and I clicked early on. I would stay nearly every day after school to chat with her, and would often even do lunch duty with her just to have an excuse to chat. The thing I remember being most struck by was the way that she never talked to us like we were kids. She never made me feel like my thoughts, ideas, feelings or problems were childish/silly, even though I’m sure many of them undoubtedly were. Being a teenager is a weird time and it often feels as if adults don’t get you. You’re not a child but not yet one of them either. But with Aedon, it never felt that way. I felt seen. We would talk about anything and everything, and it always felt like talking to a peer. When her contract was up in June, we vowed to keep in touch. In the many years since then, I’ve turned to her countless times for advice, support, or simply a non-judging ear. Somewhere along the way, it seemed obvious to us both that I would do my teaching internship with her. I can’t begin to articulate how special it was to be able to learn from someone whose influence on my life was so significant and ultimately played a major role in my decision to become a teacher. Life came full circle.
Mercedes Luby was my Grade 7 and 8 English teacher, and just about everyone’s favorite junior high teacher. Even though she’s the one who really taught us how to write, Mercedes is hard to write about because I cherish what we have so much that it’s almost hard to put it into words. She wears many hats in my life – teacher, friend, mentor, confidante. Professionally and personally, Mercedes is someone that I look to as a guide for how to handle just about anything. I’ve often said that watching Mercedes in the classroom is like a master class in being a teacher. Her well-honed classroom management skills are unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed and should be mandatory observation for all teachers. But beyond that, like both Pam and Aedon, she goes out of her way to build relationships and form connections with her students. She uses humour and real life analogies to engage students and makes class fun and meaningful, all while ensuring that you learn a whole lot along the way. Mercedes has a way of making you feel so profoundly seen and understood. She is one of the most non-judging, and unwaveringly supportive people I know. She believes in people so much that they start to believe in themselves and that, I believe, is one of her many superpowers as a teacher. There have been times over the years when others have doubted me or I’ve doubted myself, but knowing that Mercedes was always in my corner, still believing in me, made all the difference. And THAT is why I’m teacher.
If I can be even half of the teacher that these women are/were, I will consider my job well done. They’re the gold standard to which I strive. They’re the teachers who made me a teacher, and for that I’ll always be grateful.