Choosing to be a teacher

By CONNIE NOLEN / Community Columnist

PHS alum and Samford University sophomore Riley Chambers approached me at her sister’s senior night.

“I’m going to be an English teacher,” Chambers said excitedly. “Since you’re one of the teachers who inspired me, I wanted you to know.”

“You’ll be an amazing English teacher Riley!” I said, hugging her.

Chambers will be a passionate educator. She’s fearless, she’s authentic, and she’s excited about the connections that skilled writing creates.

Days earlier, I’d been challenged about my profession. The conversation was uncomfortable.

“You could be anything that you wanted to be, but face it, you’re just a teacher,” my acquaintance said. Previously, this acquaintance had shared that she had once been a teacher and she’d left the profession. She was convinced that her current profession held more prestige.

Someone I see infrequently, I wondered if her remark revealed her own career dissatisfaction. While I might have garnered a modicum of fleeting prestige or power in another professional field, I did freely choose the more humble path of the teacher. All these years later, would I have chosen differently?

Acquiring professional status may motivate some; however, a teacher’s mission is to empower young people by teaching skills that allow students to move confidently into the next chapter of their lives. My role models were the amazing, selfless teachers who inspired me and changed my life for the better as a PHS student.

Choosing teaching was right for me. I know from those students I’ve taught who’ve returned to say they’re happy that I was their teacher. For every spelling variation of Carlos, Chase, Lupita, Madison, Jordan, Amy, Scout, Jadin, Maria, Lauren, Georgia, Matt, Shaun, Sam, Holly, Tamia, Kane, Liz, Ian, Madison, Peyton, Anna, Daniel, Kristen, Amya, Miyah, Scarlett, Connor, Robert, Justin, Jordan, Hannah, Faith, Lucy, Kaleb, Emily or Emma, and for so many more—including myself, I chose teaching. Choosing teaching allowed me to touch lives and to contribute to a legacy.

Riley Chambers will do more than teach. She’ll share her passion and she’ll open the minds of students to worlds they’ll only discover because she taught them.