I still remember the first time I heard the story of why my brother became a teacher. He was in his first year of college, not sure what he really wanted to do. He had to take a science course as one of the core subjects. One of the required labs was to document the development of a chicken embryo. On day five, he broke open an egg and looked at the yolk. He saw a small red dot with small red veins branching out from it. Then he looked closer at the little red dot—and it was pulsing!
That story still gives me goosebumps even if it’s been at least 10 years since I heard that story. His immediate thought was: I need to know more about this. It set him on course to become one of the best science teachers I know (and this is not just my sibling bias; I can’t begin to count how many of his former students have told me how much they appreciated him).
Band Room Beginnings
My own story is not nearly as dramatic, but highlights another important inspiration—role models. My high school band teacher was funny, dynamic, encouraging and a really good trumpet player. Besides teaching band, (the most memorable part of high school for me) he started a noon-hour barbershop chorus, odd as that sounds now. Being part of that, and eventually chosen to be in a quartet was definitely a highlight of my secondary experience.
Mr. Valleau took the time to build relationships with us students. I remember the goofy songs he taught us on band trips. I remember him talking to a parent about getting his son a new trombone because his talent warranted it.
Once, we were heading to another school for a concert and Mr. Valleau asked if I wanted to ride with him in the van. I have to admit I was a smoker back then and we hadn’t even started driving before he offered me a cigarette. That part would not go over well now, but I do remember feeling valued and that my opinion mattered.
Coming Down to This
Three years, three jobs, a wife and 1.5 kids after graduation, I finally went back to school and eventually chose education as my major. Though I wasn’t nearly musically inclined enough to be a band teacher and ended up in the elementary stream, Mr. Valleau’s genuine interest in students and building relationships with them was a huge inspiration for me throughout my career.
I have had the pleasure of interviewing many potential candidates for teaching and hired many to teach at ACES. Contrary to popular opinion, two months summer vacation, Christmas and Spring Break are not the good reasons to go into teaching. First and foremost is a sense of calling and a genuine desire to connect with kids and see them flourish.