Gordon, New York State Teacher of the Year 2002
in Career Choice:
I had always loved words, perhaps a genetic gift from my mother
and grandmother who were always reading and doing crossword puzzles.
It is also important to remember that in my adolescence I did
not “see” women in roles other than housewife-moms, secretaries,
nurses, and teachers. My strongest influence and supporter was
my mother. A bright woman who never had the opportunity to go
to college, she spent her life working in relatively unchallenging
jobs. She was my role model of a working woman, wife and mother.
It is she who convinced my father that college was worthwhile
for a girl! My high school Latin teacher was a favorite with his
tales of Roman gods and goddesses, his linguistic challenges as
he used sophisticated Latin-rooted English words to describe us
and our teenage world. My college years in the 60s brought many
influences including the civil rights movement and the feminist
movement. I began to see teaching as a powerful means for personal
growth and societal impact.
Point: I’ve always been proud to be a teacher and more specifically
a French teacher. And yet, I reached a point when after hearing
for the umpteenth time “Oh, I took French in high school and can’t
remember a thing” that I questioned my career choice and my personal
worth in a society that did not particularly value a liberal education,
nor the ability to understand another language. I did not want
to dedicate my energies to a worthless endeavor. It is during
this period of self-evaluation and doubt that I realized my most
important work was to form caring citizens of the world. I use
French to do this; to expose young people to other cultures, cuisines,
religions, viewpoints; to teach tolerance while opening their
minds to a different set of symbols, a different way of expression,
perhaps even a different way of thinking; to share my joy as I,
too, continue to discover the world and myself.
In the last few years I have received several honors that are
highlights of my professional and personal life. To have colleagues
choose you worthy of an award is awesome: my foreign language
community honored me within the state as an outstanding FL teacher
and my school district chose me as the district teacher of the
year. My colleagues’ admiration and respect is ultimate praise
in my estimation and I have been very proud to represent them
this year as New York State Teacher of the Year 2002.
My greatest obstacle might be my choice of subject. Foreign languages
are not perceived as necessary or vital in the American educational
system nor in our culture at large. The teaching of French is
also a constant defensive position. I try to counteract these
negative feelings by modeling the excitement of language learning
and stressing the goal of greater global understanding.
My first department chair–a diminutive, grey-haired, lively Latin
teacher – was wonderful! A veteran teacher of limitless energy
and enthusiasm, excited by new ideas, she showed me how to be
a caring and conscientious teacher by her actions, her suggestions,
her steady support.
Ask yourself: What is your passion? What do you love to do?
That love is your future. For me it was words, then languages.
Study your favorite subject. If you love it, you will succeed.
Find others who share your love and they become your mentors and
your friends. Share your knowledge with others and you continue
the cycle of support.
I want to continue to share my experience and knowledge with others,
including children, future teachers, businesses, service organizations.
I enjoy presenting workshops and reaching out to new groups. I’ve
recently begun volunteering as an interpreter with a refugee resettlement
program. This work is very rewarding and introduces me to others
who remind me to appreciate my life. They inspire me to work towards
a world that embraces equality, justice and freedom for all cultures
and all of humanity.#
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