On teaching: Giving chances, changing lives

I have a special passion for learning about new people and their cultures, faiths, customs and life experiences. As I focused on those stories in journalism, I also often learned of human struggles. While I know journalism can make change in its own right, each story leaves me with a desire to do more.

Teaching English as a second language is a perfect fit: a way I can meaningfully contribute to the world.

Plus, I’ve come to realize, I am a natural-born teacher. As a child, my toys were not Barbies or video games, but books. My favorite activity was playing school — I, the teacher and my younger brother, the slightly uncooperative student. I often tutored my peers and younger kids from grade school on up to high school. As a freshman, I founded my high school newspaper and made sure to lay the foundation for the publication by teaching my peers. As a two-year editor in chief of my nationally-ranked university newspaper, I again assumed the role of teacher, and with that, various renditions of the nickname “mama” (seriously). My proudest moments came in helping others find success.

When I think of my role models or people who have made a difference in my life, I can easily point to several: my mother, my high school journalism advisor, my 7th, 9th and 12th grade English instructors, a few college professors and a couple newspaper editors — all teachers who challenged me to think differently and to be the best I can be, even when it isn’t easy.

Knowledge is one thing no one can ever steal from another. It is an empowerment that truly changes lives.

I have been blessed to find many opportunities in line with my passions of journalism and leadership, and to do so in such a universal language. I can’t imagine being unable to express myself in the terms much of the world understands. Or, being told my hard work falls short because I didn’t have the privilege to learn English. In today’s global economy, a knowledge of English is becoming increasingly important to succeed. It could make the difference in someone’s career choice, job promotion, acceptance to a more prestigious university or options to pursue hundreds of other possibilities.

My hope is that I can give others the tools they need for a chance to follow their own dreams, whatever they may be.

—JDF