I wasn’t born the daughter of a teacher. When I was in 8th grade, my mother, Marilyn, decided to return to school and fulfill her dream deferred to become a teacher. Like so many educators, teaching was my mother’s second career. She left a good paying job as a banker, shouldered substantial student debt, and sacrificed family time to become an educator. Watching my mother make such sacrifices was inspirational. She worked nights, went to school during the day, shopped at second-hand stores, and still managed to meet every demand or emotional need my sister and I presented.
After her first year as a teacher, my mother actually went back to banking for a few years, demoralized by intense observations and critiques. Eventually, she returned to the classroom and was finally able to see her dreams fulfilled. Now, with less than five years until she retires, she still has the same passion I saw in her when she entered the field. Teaching is not only a career for my mother; it is her vocation.
It is a calling.
Watching my mother as a teacher, I learned a series of important lessons:
Teaching is Dedication:
Every weekend, you can find my mother at her school preparing for the next week. I’m 30 years younger than my mother and yet her energy still outshines mine. Her dedication and commitment to excellence is exceptional. She truly believes all students can learn and takes it upon herself to give them access using the best instructional strategies and educational tools of which she is aware. She is dedicated to her administrators and colleagues, supporting them when they’re sick, thanking them often, and refusing to engage in conversations that don’t move the school community forward. The extraordinary amount of time and energy she puts into the school is a clear indication of her dedication.
No matter how busy my mother has been over the years, she’s always made my sister and me a priority. I’m not exactly sure how she did it (I still struggle to balance work and family). My mother packed the best lunches (other kids would trade their lunch for mine), helped me create the most amazing school projects, and listened to every story I ever told (she knew every one of my classmates by name). I never took a backseat to her career. She always stayed calm under pressure and helped me to relax during my intense teen years. When our family needed her support on a more full-time basis, she took a year-long leave of absence to help take care of her grandchildren. Though my mother’s dedication to her job is unwavering, she’s always kept our home a place of refuge and comfort.
A Continuous Learner:
My mother has always been an innovative teacher. She is continuously reinventing and refining her practice, seeking knowledge through collaboration with others, and trying the latest strategies. My mother may be just a few years from retirement, but her passion for continued learning is evident to her colleagues, students, administrators, and families. She leads as a teacher by constantly learning herself.
Importance of Service:
My mother took a substantial pay cut to become a teacher. Her dedication and calling to serve her local community was incredibly apparent. This created a model of public service which reminds me of my own responsibility to be committed to my community. Understanding the importance of selfless behavior and advocating to improve the world for future generations was a wonderful example that my mother lived every day.
This week, as we celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week, I also celebrate my first and most important teacher: my mother. Being a legacy teacher — one whose parent is also a teacher — is grounded in watching our parent’s commitment to service and learning. My mother paved the path for me to change and impact this world.
Sometimes, it seems like my mother feels she’s becoming obsolete or too old for teaching. Perhaps she feels a sense of no longer being competent or nimble enough to change with the times. Yet, my mother is exactly the opposite. She is young at heart. She seeks out open educational resources for her students and organizes multi-cultural nights at her school. She was — and still is — my role-model in both life and in teaching.
To my mother, and the many teachers around the world, thank you for your dedication. Thank you for your service. And thank you for sacrificing so much of your time — your life — to better our world through the education of others.
Crystal Morey is a middle school math teacher in Enumclaw, WA. She has served on the county’s Common Core transition team, and is a teacher leader on a statewide project with Washington State’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Mathematics Education Collaborative. Connect with Crystal on Twitter: @TheMathDancer.