Shivani Goyal immigrated to the United States with her family from India when she was in the third grade. Starting school in a new country, Shivani faced significant hurdles to success – she couldn’t speak English and her parents were unfamiliar with the school system.
“My teachers made all the difference,” Shivani says. “My teachers helped me realize the opportunities I had and the education they provided has been pivotal in my success.”
Today, Shivani teaches kindergarten at Clarence Farrington Elementary School in Indianapolis, a career path she says was inspired by the teachers who nourished a love for education.
For the best educators, teaching is a passion, not just a job. Below, teachers from across the country share their reasons for choosing a career in the classroom:
“I became a teacher because I have enough idealism to be out to change the world – and enough pragmatism to see that a classroom is an ideal place for me to start. It has allowed me to bring disparate skills of public speaking and connecting big ideas to tiny details to the very real (and very joyous) job of simply being with kids.” – Jarod Wunneburger, Seventh Grade Math Teacher, New York City Charter School for the Arts
“I became a school counselor because I saw the disparities in the African American community and I wanted to be an agent of change. I was a student who had a rocky start, and it was a guidance counselor who saw my potential and invested in me by having encouraging conversations and challenging me academically. I remember him being invested in my success even when I wasn't invested in myself.” – Jerri Taylor, Counselor, Howard University Middle School of Mathematics and Science, Washington, D.C.
“I believe that every child deserves the opportunity to be his or her best self, but too often, children of color are denied that opportunity. I wanted to become a teacher to change that, just as my teachers did for me.” – Shivani Goyal, Kindergarten Teacher, Clarence Farrington Elementary School, Indianapolis
“I became a teacher to impact students’ lives the way my younger sister’s teachers impacted hers. When my sister was 2 years old, she was diagnosed as learning disabled. As she began speech services, I started to attend the classes with her. I would sit and play the board games as she made sounds that eventually turned to words. I saw the joy in her eyes, my parents’ and her teachers’ eyes and decided I wanted to be responsible for other families to have that positive feeling too. As I got older, I was more aware of the difficulties my younger sister faced and knew that the support she got from her teachers throughout her life made her the person she is today, and I knew I could do the same. With that determination, I applied for college without ever considering another career. It was always assumed that I would be a special education teacher and there's not a day that goes by that I wish I chose something else.” – Jennifer Haggerty, Second Grade Special Education, Girls Prep Bronx Elementary, New York City
“I've always wanted to be a teacher. I love working with children and figuring out what makes them tick! I wanted to help unlock learning mysteries for kids and help them learn to love learning.” – Alison Fair, First Grade, Math and Social Skills Teacher, Girls Prep Lower East Side Elementary Charter School, New York City
“As a teacher, your work immediately impacts another human life. That human life influences another and another—and ultimately, it’s a never-ending cycle. Anyone who has ever taught would agree that being a teacher is not easy work, it is important work. Work that will shape and define us for centuries to come. That is why I teach.” – Phoebe Duvall, Fourth Grade Teacher, Paramount School of Excellence Charter School, Indianapolis
“I grew up in central San Antonio. I am a poster child for the opportunity gap: low-income family, minority group, parents that did not earn a college degree, economically disadvantaged community. So I can relate to the struggles our students in the San Antonio Independent School District face every day. I don’t want our students to struggle as I did. I want to be that helping hand, the mentor, their guide through their educational journey. I know how important education and what a gift a good education is and I want share that gift with them. I want to be the bridge that closes that gap.” – Ellison Sosa, Teacher Resident, Ogden Elementary School, San Antonio
“I didn't (at first). I actually saw myself as a social worker. However, after working several years in non-profit community based organizations, I realized that I wanted to have a larger impact on children and thought that I would be able to do so in the classroom. Now, I wouldn't see myself doing anything else. I love teaching and giving back to the community I grew up in. I see myself in every one of my students. I share their story and hopefully my contribution to their lives will make a positive and lasting impression that will steer them to believe in themselves and accomplish their dreams.” – Noelia Rodriguez, Third Grade English and Language Arts Teacher, Girls Prep Bronx Elementary School, New York Cit
“Teaching is my calling. I had teachers who transformed my personal development just by having consistent faith in me. I felt seen by people who stuck out as a steady, caring presence. The inspiration from these teachers, plus the value I saw from connecting with people I could trust outside of my family, led me to want to give this feeling back to children. One of these teachers was my mom – she was a teacher for 38 years, which was a huge influence. I saw the relationships she built through teaching and the lives she consistently impacted.” – Kelli Love, Mindfulness and Yoga Teacher, Girls Prep Bronx Elementary School
“I became inspired to teach when my wife and I lived in Nicaragua and we saw how education transformed the lives of underserved communities. Education gave these people a platform to stand up and demand equity. At the time, I was beginning PhD application for critical studies and realized that much of my time was spent in the realm of ideas, not praxis. So, I decided to shift professions and use my privilege to serve others.” – Joshua Martinez, Fourth Grade Teacher, KIPP Raices Academy, East Los Angeles
“I love working with people and creating a culture of care for students. I remember having an incredible teacher in second grade who made all students feel important. I want to make others feel the way I did in that class. I truly believe that education is the most powerful tool anyone can possess. I want to inspire and motivate people to grow up and be influential, kind and compassionate people. I also believe that there is a huge achievement gap that needs to be closed. Education is the only way to close that gap.” – Katherine Brysh, Kindergarten Teacher, Brooke Charter Schools, Boston
“I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was a little girl. My parents both teach. My aunts all taught at many different levels and I had four siblings to play teacher with as a nerdy girl. My parents discouraged us away from teaching, so I went to school to study Speech-Language Pathology (thinking it’d be as close to teaching as I could get while still please my parents). While in school, I volunteered in schools throughout my city and that was when I felt the pull to the profession I couldn’t resist. Teaching was one of the professions that constituted a large population of the black middle class (at least as long as I can remember). After 7,500 or so teachers were fired following the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the teaching population shifted dramatically. Mostly young, mostly out-of-towners, mostly white teachers were tasked with rebuilding a system in New Orleans that had always belonged to older, native, black people. I knew that I belonged in the teaching force here in New Orleans - as a public school-educated, native black woman. I started teaching kindergarten in 2012.” – Kaitlyn Gaddis, Founding Teacher, Livingston Collegiate Academy, New Orleans
This is the second in a three-part back-to-school series celebrating America’s teachers.