When did you know you wanted to be a teacher?


Danielle Bierzynski

LearnZillion Curriculum and Instruction Innovation Specialist, Literacy

I didn’t know I wanted to be a teacher, but everyone else around me knew I was a teacher. My dad frequently tells a story about how when I was little, I would round up the neighborhood kids, sit them on my stoop, and read to them, stopping only to ask probing questions. Then during our senior year of college, my best friend sent me the application for NYC Teaching Fellows program three times before I finally applied. They knew I was a teacher and they helped me see it.

I loved seeing my students grow and change. In my first year of teaching, I had a 16-year-old student in the 8th grade. She told me on the first day of school that she hated reading and wouldn’t read in my class. At the end of the year we read The Outsiders, and I used my own money to buy enough books for my students to take home (and keep if they wanted to). We were two-thirds of the way through the book, and on a Monday morning, I remember this student running into my classroom, very upset with me because I didn’t prepare her for the ending. I was a bit shocked and got teary-eyed, not because she was upset with me, but because she read and connected with the whole book on her own, something she said she wouldn’t do.

There are a lot of ways that teaching has changed my personal outlook. I try very hard to recognize and honor the uniqueness of everyone, knowing that everyone has a story that it is worth bringing to light. This is something that I constantly work toward, even if I fail at it sometimes. At the most personal level, I look at my daughter and hope that her teachers strive to see her uniqueness and leverage her strengths, knowing that she too has and will have a story worth more than numbers on a standardized test. It should be those experiences we are acknowledging everyday in our work.


 

Nick Lewis

LearnZillion Director of Customer Success, Services & Support

In college, I spent a summer in Atlanta teaching a small group of middle school students about the Civil Rights movement through a program called Summerbridge (now Breakthrough). My students knew very little about the movement or how so many of the struggles of the 60s were still playing out in their own neighborhoods. We spent a lot of time that summer examining local history and discussing race and culture. I felt like lightbulbs were going on all the time for my students, and I found that to be tremendously energizing and rewarding. I was hooked from there!

When I was a senior in college and my friends started looking for jobs, a lot of them were trying to become consultants or bankers, but I was completely uninspired by that route. I knew that I wanted a job that was more fulfilling. I remembered the sense of purpose and fulfillment I felt teaching in Atlanta and decided that it only made sense to try to do that work full time.

I loved watching kids learn and seeing the sense of pride and accomplishment in their faces when they mastered a new skill or made sense of a new concept. I also loved joking and playing with the kids. I taught 2nd grade and it was always so much fun to play kickball with my students, or joke with them after school. It was so rewarding to develop those relationships and to know that you just might be able to impact a student for the rest of his or her life.

Teaching solidified in me a sense of responsibility to support those in our communities who may not be able to advocate for themselves. 98% of students in my first school spoke English as a second language, and many of them were newcomers to the United States. These families worked remarkably hard to support their children, but through no fault of their own, had difficulty navigating the system. I saw it as my moral obligation, and a great privilege, to help them break as many of those barriers as possible. Even though I’m no longer in the classroom, I still think about those families often and continue to feel a sense of responsibility to them and to others like them.


 

Colette Chambers

LearnZillion Regional Account Director

I was literally surrounded by teachers my entire life (including my mother, aunt, and friends) and all of my first jobs (babysitter, camp counselor, tutor, and coach) were working with children . When I graduated college, I was offered a position to teach middle school at a school that I’d been a camp counselor and teacher’s aid for, so it was a natural next step.

Growing up, I had a great educational experience, and my education gave me opportunities that I would not have had otherwise. I wanted to bring that opportunity to other children and specifically, to middle schoolers. I felt like it was an age where I could really make an impact. They were starting to think on their own, dreaming big, and had their whole lives in front of them. I really enjoyed teaching not only the academic content, but also enjoyed challenging my students to think more critically about social issues, which I hope guided them as they entered high school.

I always loved that moment when a kid just “gets it.” The light bulb goes off, and they look at you with that smile that says, “NOW I understand!”. Nothing beats that.


Laura Coscarelli is the Community Engagement Manager at LearnZillion. When she feels like going offline, she hikes in a skirt.

Casey Manning is the Marketing Communications Manager at LearnZillion. She can recommend a great spot to grab a bite in any city, even the ones she’s never been to.

Teaching LearnZillion