The Moment I Knew I Was Called to Teach

May 3, 2016 12:00:00 AM

by Amanda Austin

The moment I knew I was going to become an educator was during my last year of college, volunteering at a local elementary school in East Baton Rouge, Louisiana. One afternoon one of my fifth-grade students asked me where I attended college. I told them I attended Louisiana State University. My college and this school were located less than five minutes away from each other and as a total surprise and shock to me, these students had never visited this campus. They thought only white students attended college there. I knew right then and there I had the potential to serve as a role model who could expose them to more than the community around them. While these children lived in a community plagued by poverty and violence and society had already deemed them “at-risk,” I knew that they could achieve beyond their limited circumstances.

I Didn’t Know Much, But I Did Know This

When I began my teaching career, I was placed in a Title I elementary school with students who were economically disadvantaged in southwest Louisiana. I walked into my first year as an alternative teaching certification candidate with an undergraduate degree in sociology and concentration in criminology. In other words, I knew nothing about curriculum, pacing guides or standards but [pullquote] I knew if something didn’t change in education, more and more African-American males and females would enter the criminal justice system.[/pullquote]

It's Not Easy

If only I knew then what I know now, maybe I would have been more prepared for what I was going to face in my classroom. On a daily basis, I encountered students who battled parent absenteeism, gangs, and lack of exposure to the world beyond their “gated” housing development. As a first-year teacher, I probably was not the most effective, but [pullquote position="right"] what I did know was love, care, passion and survival.[/pullquote] Surviving the school year without shedding any tears or getting verbally attacked by a parent, all while equipping my students with the skills and tools necessary to one day become successful and productive citizens in society. The reason I became an educator and continue to teach is unchanged—to expose them to a world outside of their local communities and to guide them on which paths to choose. I teach for those children at the elementary school I volunteered at almost seven years ago.

Amanda Austin

Amanda Austin currently serves the children of East Baton Rouge School System as a fifth-grade instructor at Mayfair Laboratory School. For the past seven years, she has had the pleasure of educating students from at-risk communities to magnet schools. Amanda earned a bachelor of arts in sociology with a concentration in criminology and minor in African and African American Studies. She also has an alternative teaching certification and master of arts in teaching in elementary education, as well as gained an endorsement for educational leadership. Amanda has a doctorate of education in educational leadership from Lamar University.

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