I was always passionate about helping others and wanted to do something that made a difference, not just have a “job.”
Jane Stein brought her life full circle when she began teaching at San Mateo Park Elementary School in San Mateo, California. She had grown up in the area and had actually been a student at the school where she was now employed. With a Bachelor's Degree in Liberal Studies from Notre Dame De Namur University; Jane went on earn her teaching credential from the Multiple Subject Credential Program at California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB). According to CSUMB, "The credentialing program is designed for those interested in teaching in culturally and linguistically diverse self-contained classrooms (grades K-8)." Although she had not grown up with the express intent to become a teacher, every career choice she explored was in a helping profession.
Thank you Jane for doing this interview! How did you eventually decide to enter the teaching profession?
As a child I was not sure of exactly what I wanted to do, but a common theme was always helping others. I wanted to be a veterinarian, a nurse, a social worker, and finally a teacher. While in the early days of college (I briefly attended the local community college) I was studying to become a Registered Nurse, and was a live-in nanny for three little boys who had lost their father. I became very close to them, their mother, and their family. It was through this relationship that I realized I would really like to become a teacher instead, as I thoroughly enjoyed working with children on a daily basis. In addition, I did a lot of volunteer work with children (camp counselor, mentor, etc.) and felt the most passionate about this type of work and knew that making it my career would be a wise and fulfilling choice.
Did you have anyone special who served as a mentor?
The mother I worked for became a mentor to me and gave me advice and confidence I needed at a pivotal point in my life. From that point on, I became more serious about my time in college and was inspired to become an elementary school teacher. The dream I currently have is to someday open a non-profit, after-school program for ELL students and their parents who want to learn English, or improve upon what they’ve already learned. This program would include early literacy themes and a book sharing program.
Please tell us about your educational journey to where you are today.
I was always passionate about helping others and wanted to do something that made a difference, not just have a “job.” In my teens and early twenties, I did a lot of volunteer work, various things with various groups and realized through that the passion I had for children. I discovered that teaching would bring me a lot of joy and fulfill those needs I had to give back and I went from there. I worked full time as an administrative assistant at the local school district office and put myself through school. It was difficult and a lot of work at the time, but I very much appreciated the opportunities I had (a job that was somewhat flexible with my school schedule, etc.).
Do you have an area of teaching that you would consider your area of expertise?
I have always taught elementary school, and always in the upper grades (4th & 5th grade) so I suppose I am an expert, so to speak, in those grades. This was what was first offered to me, and it has turned out to be an excellent fit. I really enjoy working with this age group-their humor, skill sets, and wide variety of abilities and personalities. I love that I can delve into much deeper subjects with them and that they actually get it and appreciate it.
I hope to have made a difference in many children’s lives.
What is it about your job that makes it special?
I love helping my students on a daily basis and watching them grow...especially thinking about the beginning of the year to the end, the changes and progress that they make. Working with kids all day doesn’t seem like “work.” In the seven years I have taught, I cannot think of one day that I dreaded going to school or being there for the day.
Was it hard to become a teacher?
It was difficult in the early days when I was working full time and going to school full time, paying for it all myself. Also, teaching is somewhat difficult in that your credential program requires you to spend a lot of unpaid time in the classroom, learning the ropes and practicing teaching, so working on the side can be a challenge. During those years, I would nanny after school and just lived a very frugal lifestyle at that time.
Please give us your definition of success.
Success as a teacher is feeling like you’ve reached your students, met them where they are and made a difference, even if in some small way, to each and every one of them, by the end of the year.
What type of person makes a good teacher?
To be an effective teacher, one needs to be highly organized, creative, determined, persistent, compassionate, well-rounded in their personal life, interested in life-long learning, an excellent communicator, and very resourceful.
What one thing would you like to see changed in your field?
What do you hope to have accomplished by the end of your career?
I hope to have made a difference in many children’s lives. I hope to have been a teacher that inspired them, gave them confidence, and led them to be successful human beings in all ways.
If you could advise with a potential teacher what wisdom would you share?
I would say to first spend time in a real classroom, talk to current teachers, get a true sense of what it is like, day in and day out. There’s a lot to teaching that young people in college don’t realize when they say they would like to enter the field. Also, thoroughly research the school district and school you are serious about applying to, be sure it is a place to want to invest your time in. Find mentors and teacher friends who you can learn and grow from. Find balance in your daily life (don’t stay in your classroom until 7 pm and come in on weekends)! Be creative and put your own unique spin on whatever you teach-your students will really appreciate it.