As a teacher, I pride myself on loving what I do. Draider’s (2002) article resonated with me, stating that some teachers find what they want to do at a young age. For most of my young life, I thought I wanted to be a journalist. It turns out that I was always the one helping my brother with school work, playing “school” in our basement with me as the “teacher” and him as the “student.” I taught him how to ride a bike; all of this while our parents were at work. It was not until my junior year of undergrad that I decided to get my PhD and become a professor–it was actually only after I had met my favorite professors that became mentors. Looking back, I realize that the most influential people throughout my life have been educators. They have been the ones to inspire me and give me the greatest lessons. I would like to spend today’s blog post talking about influential educators in my life that are the reason I am an educator today.
Miss. Glinka – I had Miss. Glinka my entire four years of high school. She was my required art teacher for ninth grade, and then I took her ceramics class the next three years. She was, hands down, the most influential teacher I have ever had. She did not have children herself, so she cared for her students as if they were her own. I brought her a chai tea latte every Tuesday morning, and she gave me more gifts than parents on Christmas when I graduated. I would stay after school for three hours every Wednesday, just me and her, chatting about everything. She helped me through all of my angsty teen years, especially helping me with my relationship with my mother. She wanted nothing more but for her students to succeed, and went the extra miles to ensure it. For some reason, her art classes attracted all of the misbehaved and cognitively impaired students. Whatever it was that you were going through, you put it aside and played with some clay for 47 minutes. She retired the same year I graduated, so we joked that we were graduating together. I was editor of the high school yearbook, and dedicated the entire yearbook to her that year. She doesn’t have email, so I haven’t spoken to her since high school. It kills me. She made it seem like she didn’t do the job because it paid the bills (probably a large motivation), but because she loved her students. Teaching with love.
Left: Miss. Glinka, 1972. Right: Me, Miss. Glinka, and a friend.
Disclaimer: it was 1980’s day in the picture on the right, I did not normally dress like that.
Kyle Holody – Kyle was my professor/ mentor at Coastal Carolina University. I did not take his class until my senior year of college, but it had been rumored that if you wanted to do quantitative media research, you had to take his class. I had signed up for his media effects class and was immediately enthralled. He was always making sure that the students were understanding what he was saying, and his PowerPoints were some of the most detailed I had ever seen (this is why my PowerPoints are always “too wordy” according to my boss). He is also the most compassionate, considerate people I have ever met. If he thought that he said something offensive, he would immediately back track. Sometimes, he would come back the following class meeting and apologize if he had thought he offended someone. He taught with passion, and you could tell that he cared about his students more than the material. He is also the reason behind what I research–I went to a “study hall” hour to ask him for a grad school letter of recommendation, and he asked if I would like to help him with an academic chapter studying the mediatization of mass shootings. Fast forward a year and a half later, we are published co-authors. He taught me to teach with passion.
Above: Kyle Holody (I wish we had a picture together!)
Andrea Bergstrom – This professor/mentor from Coastal quickly became my friend. She was teaching my intro to communication course that I had to take as a freshman elementary education major (lol). It was in her class that I learned you can research the media and communication, and was flabbergasted. I changed my major. Over the years, I did an independent study with her that won top paper, took her communication theory course, and her family communication course. I loved her “tell it like it is” attitude, and she proved to me that you do not have to sacrifice your personality in the classroom. You can teach because it’s what you love to do, without risking your genuine persona. She taught me that students can see right through it if you’re fake. I would spend hours sitting in her office with the door closed, chatting away. We quickly realized that we are very similar. Fast forward to today, and we text all the time. She texted me when Biden won the presidency, and we have a monthly Zoom call where we catch up. She taught with passion and reality.
Above: Me and Andrea
With all of this being said, I would like to take a minute to reflect. It speaks volumes that all of the most influential people in my life (besides my parents) have been my educators. It is why I do what I do. I can only hope to have such a lasting impact with my students. I want to teach with passion and love, but also critically. Students can be held to a high standard while still knowing that you love what you do, and only want them to succeed. This class has afforded me the tools that will allow me to do the same to my students.