By: Dana M. Wheeler, M.S. Ed., M.S. EPL
At the Empowerment Academy in New Jersey, Justin Bates stands as an inspiration for his ninth-grade English and Urban Music Studies students. Justin participated in ExpandED Schools’ Pathways Fellowship in 2018 and served as a member of our alumni panel last year. With a smile that radiates enthusiasm, he embodies the essence of a dedicated teacher. To commemorate World Teachers’ Day, a global celebration that honors educators from all corners of the world, Justin sheds light on the profound importance of teachers.
“One thing ExpandED helped me realize about the teaching profession is that the only way you get better at teaching is by being in front of students,” remarked Justin. While meticulous planning and collaboration with fellow educators are crucial, the magic unfolds when those plans meet the eager eyes and minds of students. Teaching, he contends, is a delicate juggling act, where countless variables come into play beyond the lesson plan.
Today’s educators face the daunting challenge of combating apathy and making learning more than a transactional process. Justin believes that fostering a genuine passion for education and personal growth in students is key. “The things that you’re teaching them is not just to make them go through motions and get a good grade but it’s to develop them as people,” said Justin.
Convincing them that education isn’t just a means to an end but a journey of self-discovery and empowerment is a monumental task—one that, when overcome, transforms the entire educational experience.
“A piece of advice that I can share for aspiring educators is that impostor syndrome is real, but don’t let it lie to you,” said Justin. He encourages aspiring teachers to step into the classroom with confidence. Recognizing that their life experiences and wisdom set them apart, they are not mere rookies but adults with valuable insights to share.
“Where would any of us be without that one teacher who saw the potential in us, gave us their time, care, and attention, and helped to guide us in the right direction?” Justin reflected. Teachers are the bedrock upon which our society’s future is built, and their passion and commitment deserve recognition and celebration.
In a world where education shapes destinies, Justin Bates exemplifies the invaluable role teachers play. Their dedication, wisdom, and unwavering support mold the leaders, thinkers, and dreamers of tomorrow, ensuring a brighter future for us all. Be sure to let teachers know how grateful you are to have them in your life.