by Robert Zavala
“Why do you teach?” is a question asked of me by some of my family and friends. It is common knowledge education is not a lucrative profession. There are many other professions that pay a higher wage than teaching. Personally I am not in this profession for the money or prestige. My destiny was carved out by experience and influence from inspirational professionals, mainly teachers and professors.
Reflecting on the United States educational system, I spent most of day as a child and adolescent in school. I learned most of my core values and ethics in the class room. It was a teacher who taught me how to read, write and count. These skills were reinforced on the dinner table at home but started in the class room.
As I went through college I was a member of the Math Club on my campus. We had weekly meetings that were led by the math department professors. I can remember how smart they were and how important their work was. Dr. Watkins would talk about his sabbatical research in Egypt and how we was recreating how the early Egyptians’ tracked the sun to make a calendar. He would also lecture about the calculus book he was co-writing. I was an engaged listener even if I could not follow his complex topic. A simple nod of my head agreeing with him is about all I could do. After the Math Club meetings my passion for learning was turned up a notch and my curiosity was endless.
When I teach my class my objective is to raise the students’ curiosity for learning. This is hard to do teaching math since most of my students are not interested in Science, Technology or Math (STEM). Hard but not impossible. Occasionally students will take my math class as an elective. Usually their learning style matches my teaching style so the course material does not feel hard. When I do have a student that takes a math class specifically because I am teaching it, I feel that student’s curiosity has been ignited. One may say that I inspired that student to explore mathematics.
Since Summer Jam I have found my inspiration through instructor observations. When I observe an instructor teaching and see how they manage a class room successful, I leave the observation in awe. My self-perception is I do a decent job of teaching, but after observing the phenomenal talent we have at Butler I know I have room for improvement to achieve greatness.
Back to the question “Why do I teach?” Sure the breaks are nice: Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring. My colleagues are the cream of the crop and I am part of an elite profession. I work for the second largest, but first best community college in the state. These are all valid reason for me to teach at Butler. However, they do not describe specifically why I am in this profession. I am here to be inspirational and light the fire of curiosity. Once the fire is lit, the student will have to feed it.
I teach because I want to CHANGE lives.