Why did you become a teacher? How could you ever leave the classroom? (Part 1 of 2)

Today’s post is answering the first of two questions I get asked quite frequently. The first question often comes from those who aren’t teachers. The second question usually comes from teachers.

Why did I become a teacher?

I wish I had a simple answer, but it’s a combination of many things. First of all, my parents instilled a great thirst for knowledge into me, a thirst that led to a dedication to achieving the goal I set in sixth grade of going to Stanford and becoming a lawyer. (No, I did not decide to follow a career in law, but my sixth grade self definitely set me on a good path by putting Stanford into my goals.)

Next, I moved from Portland to Sacramento a week into high school. Now I did not choose to move because of how mediocre my school in Portland was, but that became clear pretty quickly. I had been in school for a week in Portland and was completely lost. I entered the school in Sacramento (Go Huskies!) and even though they had started a whole month before I got there, I felt at home. I know the teachers in Portland were doing their best too, but for me personally, I would have likely followed a completely different path had I stayed up in Portland, due to the expectations and quality of education at that school.

While I realized the difference in the schools at the time, it hit me even more when I went to work for St. HOPE Academy under the leadership of the current mayor of Sacramento, Kevin Johnson. At St. HOPE, KJ was trying to give the children of Oak Park (a neighborhood in Sacramento) the lives they deserved. I watched as the teachers union tried to deny a quality education (I know that’s not how they perceived it) to families who desperately wanted it. I walked with them in protest outside of the board meetings until 2am. They were not going to give up. It was their future, after all.

All that led me to the spring of my senior year at Stanford. I was deciding between the Stanford Teacher Education Program, working in customer relations at Google, or some other venture altogether (bartender, perhaps?). I received some great guidance from the outreach coordinator at STEP (who is now my mother-in-law) and decided to go down that path. It definitely was a hard decision in the moment, but looking back, I can’t believe it wasn’t easier.

I actually feel that way about each of those decisions I made. Yes, choosing to move to Sacramento was a choice between living with my dad or my mom, which in itself is a very difficult decision, but I believe the school I would’ve been at definitely had more of an impact on my life trajectory. Working at St. HOPE? I had to talk to the Haas Center at Stanford for a while to work at a non-profit they hadn’t worked with before (since I was on the federal work-study program and had to work at a non-profit in the summer to be a part of the program), but without those experiences and the leadership training from Kevin Johnson, I definitely wouldn’t have ended up here, or at least wouldn’t have ended up making the (small) impact I have made. And as far as choosing a career path my senior year… seriously? I can’t believe I was considering working in a cubicle, calling people about their ads on Google.

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