From Playing School to Becoming a Teacher: One Student's Journey to Discovering Her Career Path

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Erika Weaver Coleman
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My story began long before I found myself in college as a non-traditional student. When I was growing up, one of my favorite things to do was to play teacher. My grandparents had a house that was built in 1912 in Opelika, Alabama that was the former primary school for their neighborhood. The basement of the house was the schoolhouse, and the old desks and blackboards were part of my childhood playgrounds. The money I earned money doing chores to help my grandparents was spent at the local teacher supply store. I decorated the old schoolhouse like a real school, used my dolls and stuffed animals as my pupils, and my uncle’s textbooks from Auburn University as my curriculum. I’m sure it was quite a sight to see a seven-year-old fumbling through a book of literature and calculus to teach her toys! As I grew older, I was always was drawn towards my teachers and the significance of their roles in my life.

When I became a mother at not quite twenty-two, I embraced each moment to be able to teach my daughter about the world. I had the fortune of being able to stay home with my young children, as I was also a Navy wife. I decorated the house as a kindergarten. Books and engaging toys were in little areas of each room, and our living room became the classroom. I read as much as I could about child development and planned my days as if I were teaching a Montessori preschool. Three children and a world of life changes later, I found myself going through a very difficult divorce. I suddenly was faced with the reality that I was going to have to figure out what I was going to do to help myself and my children in the world.

I eventually became a nurse’s assistant in elder care, which helped me balance work life with family life while providing for my family. This also helped me feel that connection to my grandparents I missed so much after they passed away. The message that I kept receiving from the residents that I cared for was about how important it was to live the life that makes you happy and that leaves something meaningful for your family and future generations. This really struck me because, even though I was very happy working with the elderly, I wasn’t feeling that satisfaction the residents always spoke of.

I had the experience of working as a paraprofessional in a high school ESE (Exceptional Student Education) classroom two years ago, and it was the catalyst that set my world spinning towards the path to my dreams. The students impacted me in ways that I will forever carry within my heart. I had my first experience teaching a student something brand new and observing the process of understanding and their synthesis of the knowledge. In that moment, I knew that I had to go to college and finally become a teacher. I began this journey in August of 2016 and am so proud of how far I have come!

In September 2017 I had the amazing opportunity to receive the Pearson Scholarship for Higher Education. Becoming a Pearson Scholar has added to my confidence in myself tremendously. I have been able to focus much more on my studies without as much stress about finances. As part of the scholarship, I have been matched with a mentor from Pearson, too. My Pearson Mentor has been very helpful in keeping me on track, helping me to further develop my academic and career based goals as well as helping me feel confident in my act of juggling work, school and family. My dream of becoming a teacher is coming true.

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