Saline Middle School science teacher, Rachel Aulisa, is an influencer.


It’s not what you think.

Rachel isn’t garnering thousands of followers on Instagram, nor is she getting paid to blast the launch party for the latest sugar-free energy drink to subscribers on YouTube. No. Rachel is showing up every day to teach middle school science. We all know that the middle school temperament is a treat (note the 7th grade-level of sarcasm), which makes it all the more impressive that Rachel bravely guides these young people through the very real hazards of the science lab. Teachers are the real difference makers. Before you roll your eyes, let that trite sentence sink in a little more. Teachers are the real difference makers.

It’s the truth.

When asked why she wanted to become a teacher, Rachel had a fast response: “I had a teacher and coach who had a profound impact on my life during my middle school years. She fostered my love for science and made me feel loved and cared for every day.” The mentorship that Rachel received at an early age clearly helped her have a positive outlook toward learning and gave her the motivation to succeed. This is evidenced by her graduation from the University of Michigan in 2016. Additionally, Rachel recently completed her Master of Science in Curriculum and Instruction here at Concordia University (’19.)

Paying it Forward

Rachel embodies the concept of paying it forward as she uses her platform as an educator and coach to inspire young people to grow in confidence, athletic ability, as well as knowledge. In addition to her regular duties as a teacher, Rachel helped implement the Summit Learning program at her school, and is an assistant varsity girls’ basketball coach. As if these tasks didn’t keep her busy enough, she also has traveled to South Africa multiple times.

After chatting with Rachel, it’s clear that she chose the right profession for the right reasons. “I teach because I love forming relationships with my students and making sure they all have someone in their lives who cares about them, believes in them, and is cheering them on like I was so fortunate to have in my middle school years” she stated. Rachel is warm and interesting, but even more interested in serving and uplifting those around her.

Every child deserves to have a teacher like Rachel, and there are so many fantastic teachers in our country. But, how do we ensure that the next generation of learners will have enough teachers? Young people, for a variety of valid reasons, are turning away from becoming teachers, and we’re just now beginning to see how bad the shortage is. Those of you out on the front lines serving as educators in a variety of roles understand how critical your roles are in the daily lives of students and school life.

Teaching is a mission-driven vocation.

As an act of self-care meets professional development, consider Rachel’s story and how it is similar and different from your own. Did you have a teacher championing your journey into education? Or, on the contrary, did you ever feel isolated, not good enough, or like a failure while at school? Which teacher really made you fall in love with learning? Who went the extra mile for you?

Remember.

Teachers, remember your mission. Remember those who have inspired you to enter the vocation, remember what struggles you had as learners, remember the community needs that lit your heart on fire. If you don’t remember why you’re doing this in the first place, it gets easy to get depressed by the day-to-day stressors of classroom management, budgets, layoffs, disgruntled parents, trauma-laden students, and the list goes on.

Rachel embodies the concept of paying it forward as she uses her platform as an educator and coach to inspire young people to grow in confidence, athletic ability, as well as knowledge.

Why did you want to become a teacher? When did you first consider teaching as a career option? Have your reasons grown and matured? Have they completely changed? No matter what your reasons for teaching are, you must take time to remember them.

Keep the candle ablaze.

This time of year, it can be especially challenging to think beyond the day-to-day needs of your classroom, and this is okay once in a while. However, operating in Teacher Survival Mode for an extended period of time can contribute to burnout. Mustafa Ataturk once stated, “A good teacher is like a candle. It consumes itself to light the way for others.” Teachers, if you haven’t already, find a realistic way to recharge this winter. Maybe recharging happens through group exercise, a book club, or possibly finding a mentor. Perhaps, you’re a master teacher, and it’s time to find a mentee. Recharging looks different for everyone, so resist those guilty feels if you need something nontraditional.

When your flame is ablaze, you have the ability to lead others. Rachel’s joy was her former teacher’s joy. This is one way you can pass on your beautiful vocations as teachers to the next generation. Remember. Recharge. And get after it.

 

— Vanessa Lane is the Outreach Coordinator for Graduate Education at Concordia University in Ann Arbor. When she's not at work, she can be found taking her kids to the Hands On Museum or watching NBA basketball and with her husband.

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