California Educator

March 2017

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"I teach with my heart and my soul, not my mouth." — Jaime Escalante A F T E R I ' D S P E N T my entire childhood dreaming of being a teacher, the reality when I graduated in 1990 was that there were not enough jobs. I spent six years as a secretary for nonprofit organizations as well as a personal assistant. By 1996, I was ready to embark on my dream. I finished my credential at a wonderful private university on the San Francisco Peninsula in 1998. The job I was offered, to teach a fourth- and fifth-grade class of 27 students at a public elementary school that was one of two alternative schools in the district, was completely over my head. The school's philosophy was based on project and hands-on learning. The ki d s w ere t au g ht by abi lity, n ot g ra d e level, and I had not been prepared for this type of classroom. I w a s g iv e n m a t h a n d h i st o r y t e x t - books; I had a huge shelf with a mishmash of literature books. I needed one-on-one lesson-planning help. I needed a true part- ner teacher. I did not have anyone who helped me figure out what to teach. My B T S A c o a c h c o u l d n' t s h o w u p unti l D ecemb er. Th e principal hired a retired t each er to h elp educat e m e on the school's philosophy, but she ended up criticizing me and meeting secretly with my students' parents. In February the principal divided up my fifth-graders among my grade-level part- ners, leaving me with 14 fourth-graders. It was made clear to me I didn't belong there. I was d e vast at ed , but stuck out th e rest of the year thanks to my BTSA coach and my students. At the school promo- tion, I was excluded from sitting with the other fifth-grade teachers, but my former students, one by one, walked around to hug me. Thankfully, I was given a formal apology by the superintendent of human resources, which validated me and gave me the will to continue. That summer I attended our church's annual trip to the barrios of Mexico to bui l d h om e s. Th o se four d ay s put my entire life in perspective. No matter what I thought my problems were, they were noth- ing compared to these beautiful people who endured unspeakable poverty. I ended up participating four more times and the experiences have impacted me to this day. S ti l l to o i n s e c u re to ge t a ful l - ti m e position, I was gifted with two long-term subbing jobs in 1999-2000 at South San Francisco Unified. I learned how to plan, how to implement curriculum and how to encourage students, and I was given praise I didn't think possible. After two years at another district, I was let go for a reason that still eludes me today. I felt I was the only person in the history of teaching to be let go from two school dis- tricts. en my credential adviser guided me to Fremont Unified, which changed my life. Not only did I meet with amazingly supportive colleagues, but I met my future husband there as well. We were married two years after I was hired and two months after I was given tenure! I was 37. For the past six years, I've been an active union member and teaching leader, serving as my school site rep. As a result, I know our contract and am able to advise new teachers and do my best to stand up for them so they do not have to experience the difficulties I did. I also voice my hope that new teachers will have more support and rights. New teachers often don't want to rock the boat — they're too fearful, as I was. My advice to new teachers who are in tough situations is: Believe in yourself. You're not alone — know that there are peo- ple you can turn to for support. If you don't feel comfortable with school colleagues or administrators, go to your colleagues in the union — your site rep or local chapter pres- ident — to ask for help and let them know what's going on. ese are people you can trust. Ask what your options are to improve your skills, such as a Peer Assistance and Re v i e w prog ram . Make sure s om e on e explains all the procedures and options. Teaching is a job you are putting your heart into each day. I love the creativity, autonomy and the daily excitement stu- dents give unconditionally. For the last eight years, I have taught first-graders whose enthusiasm amazes me and fills me with joy I never knew in any other job. Kim Darling Loisel, Fremont Unified District Teachers Association, teaches first grade and is a site rep at Ardenwood School in Fremont. A Teacher's Journey Educator overcomes challenges, obstacles to achieve her dream By Kim Loisel " My advice to new teachers in tough situations: Believe in yourself. You're not alone — know that there are people you can turn to for support." 15 March 2017 perspectives your voice

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