This Inspirational Educator Spotlight brought to you by CJ Re. He is in his eleventh year of teaching.
Why did you choose to teach as a career?
The greatest irony of my being a high school teacher is that I never wanted to be a teacher. Ninth and tenth grade were some of the worst years of my young life. I wanted to be a carpenter, professional musician, monk, and a clown. One night someone suggested to me that I should be a teacher and all of a sudden I knew that’s what I was suppose to be doing. It was the perfect combination of all of my other pursuits. Teaching awards me the opportunity to brighten someone’s day with humor, make something from nothing, and love and serve my community.
Many people question if our current education system is working. What do you think?
That depends on how you look at it. I’m not waiting for policymakers or government officials to come up with the perfect curriculum or curriculum standards. I’m in the business of meeting young people where they are, building relationships, and making them the best human beings I can. If you as a teacher simply focus on loving and teaching the kids, nothing else seems to matter.
What would you like to see being taught in our classrooms?
I think it’s how and not what’s being taught. My favorite teachers are the ones that are spending their night learning all of the lyrics to the newest J. Cole track for their students. Teachers can teach a lesson through their knowledge of Pokemon Go and Snapchat. They aren’t trying to be cool, they are trying to take what is already holding the kid’s interest and teaching their content through that lens.
If you have been teaching for over ten years, describe the changes you’ve seen in students and the teaching profession?
The funny thing about my job as a teacher is that the longer I do it the more amazing it becomes. The job and the kids have been exactly the same since the beginning, but I have changed every year. The key for me has been becoming more and more self-aware and then teaching from that place rather than looking at other teachers and trying to emulate them. The teaching profession has become more scripted and results based. Friends of mine that teach can tell me in September what they will be teaching on February 10th at 1:45 pm because their lessons are planned and scripted by the district. As teachers, we need to remember that this job is only ever about the kids never about a test.
Share your proudest teacher moment.
A few weeks ago I was asked to go to dinner with kids that I student taught 12 years ago or so. As we sat there talking I was listening to them talk about their lives and who they had become. It was the biggest honor for me to listen to them and I just kept thinking of how important these relationships are. In my classroom, relationships are king and they do not end when you matriculate to the next grade or graduate from high school. I’m building relationships for life. The beauty of social media is that it allows us to connect with our students for years after they’ve left our classrooms no matter where they are.
What is the most important message about teaching that you would like People to know?
Two things. Relationships are king. You can’t teach someone at the highest level if you don’t know them. Eat lunch with your kids. Stay late after school and listen to their problems and successes. Stand in your doorway and greet every single kid every single day and you will change their world. Two, teaching is a craft. Like any other skill, you will not be good at it right away. Be patient.
How can parents and Educators work together to better to ensure children are successful?
One of the things they can do is to let kids fail and teaching them about hard work. Coddling students and not letting them learn the value of failure and hard work is one of the worst things teachers and parents can do.
What is the most important educational gift parents can provide for their children to help them be successful learners?
Show your kids what passion and hard work look like and then help them to foster their own.
Who is most Inspirational Teacher you’ve had? Why?
I never had a teacher that inspired me until I student taught in college. During that last year of college, I met Mr. Zaccaria who was a teacher in New Jersey.He was unbelievable. His classroom was the most incredible learning environment I’d ever been in. The kids loved and respected him. His work ethic was unmatched. It was a real honor to teach with him.
How many hours a week do you spend completing all of your duties related to your job. Are there any extra duties that people may find surprising or not consider that you have to complete?
The hours are countless. When I started teaching my wife would always ask me if I was “done working.” Now we laugh whenever she asks that question because this job is never done. Last night my phone rang at 2:30 am. On the phone was a student I hadn’t seen or spoken to in years. He was having a life crisis that he needed to talk about that couldn’t wait. As a teacher, you are always on call. An actual priority that I have given myself is to stay current with what my students are giving their attention to. If everyone is going to see Wonder Women this summer then so am I. If they are playing with apps like Oldify I’m learning it too. Doing this gives me a connection point with my new students next year. It gives me a place on which to build my lessons and my relationships on.
What do you think is a fair salary for teachers? Keep in mind the argument that celebrities make millions and teachers are always struggling?
When I first started teaching in Camden, NJ, in 2006, I made $32,000 a year and there was not an option to get paid in the summer. I had to work four jobs every summer to support my family. I’m not sure how to place a value on such an important job. I don’t know what teachers should get paid, but that wasn’t enough.
Have you ever paid for supplies for your classroom?
All the time. My principal is the greatest guy I could ever wish to work with. He is more than supportive, but the funds aren’t there sometimes, but in this job, the kids come first, so you learn to make something from nothing.
If you had a wish list of needs for your classroom what would the top three things be?
In the last 30 days of school, I had the chance to take 11 students to Costa Rica for nine days. Most of them had never been on an airplane before. I also was invited by Gary Vaynerchuk to bring a number of my students up to his office in Vayner Media so that he could speak with them about what he thinks it takes to be successful.
Some of my students will take away more from those two experiences than other lessons they were taught in high school. If I could wish for anything it would be more experiences for my students.
If you would like to connect with this Inspirational Educator, please contact CJ here: firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with him via his YouTube channel: Real Rap With The Reynolds