Saturday, January 14, 2012

Practically by Accident

OUR MISSION                            NUESTRA MISION
Monaco staff will promote           El personal de Mónaco
the value of education                  promoverá el valor de la
throughout the community.          educación a través de la comunidad.

I wasn’t always a teacher. In fact I never dreamed I’d teach, much less to inner-city middle school kids, but several years ago in my late thirties, my soon-to-be ex-husband left the church and the state, while I stayed behind  in the church, with a mortgage and bills up to my eyeballs.

I’d been a stay-at-home mom working part-time jobs for friends’ businesses because I could bring my young son with me. Suddenly I faced entering the work force full-time again, but I didn’t know what to do. I was torn between earning more money in the business field and having less time with my son, or teaching. Teaching, with evenings, weekends, holidays, and summers off, fit my son’s schedule.  After many prayers I felt prompted to choose a career that would allow me as much time with my son as possible. I signed up to teach.

I’d never before been so grateful for that English degree I earned at BYU, but I had no teaching license. That would take an additional year, money, and time I didn’t have. Heavenly Father blessed me to be at the right place, at the right time, for help. My school district had such a shortage of teachers that they were willing to put me through an accelerated teaching license process while at the same time placing me in a classroom and paying me a teacher’s salary. I was blessed.

The only drawback (I thought) was that I was asked to teach in an inner-city neighborhood. A majority of my students are immigrants or first generation Americans. My ancestors have been in America since the 1500s. Most of my students speak Spanish at home. I know very little Spanish. Most live at or below the poverty level. I grew up in an upper middle class LDS family. Many have wonderful, caring, hardworking parents, but some don’t. Many have histories and home lives that break my heart. They need extra attention, love, and patience. I admit I was nervous. What could I possibly have in common, much less teach these kids? Would they accept me?

I soon realized that those years teaching Laurels and Beehives in Young Women and sisters in Relief Society paid off. One of the first things I learned teaching in church was to know and love my audience. I asked my students about themselves. I prayed daily for my students and their families. My administrators were amazed at how comfortable I was in front of the classroom and with teens. All of my church experience had been practice for a career that would help me make a living for myself and my son.

I found myself absolutely loving teaching English Language Arts and I loving my students! Helping them grow in reading and English, not to mention society, is very fulfilling. I obtained my teaching license and went on to earn a Masters in Teaching. This job has been the perfect fit for me and my son. I am also an LDS example for my students in a school with few LDS students. They know that Mrs. Terry does not permit swearing in her classroom and they often ask me why I’m so happy.

When I tell people that I found my calling in life at age 36, practically by accident, they look at me skeptically and ask me what I do. I proudly tell them, “I’m a teacher.”

Photo & Mission Statement: Courtesy of Monaco Middle School, CCSD, Las Vegas, NV
Copyright 2012 Corrina L. Terry