RAF Inspired: Learning from my students
By Carolyn Lagoe
Who inspires me? My students.
I’ve had the great fortune of teaching for the past nine years. I began teaching as a means to an end. My education would be financially supported if I taught two classes per semester while pursuing graduate school. Although I didn’t like the idea of routinely leading a class, it seemed like an option I couldn’t pass up. I planned to get in, work hard, do a good job, and depart to pursue a career outside of academia. Turns out, things weren’t that clear-cut. Teaching has been a transformative experience in my life.
Leading a class of undergrads initially scared me quite a bit. I was never someone comfortable in front of large groups or facilitating discussions. I thought matters would be made worse by the fact that I wasn’t much older than some of the undergrads. However, teaching was completely different than I thought it would be. My first class was an outstanding group. They immediately accepted me as their professor and class sessions turned into an open atmosphere in which students were willing to take chances and push themselves. It was an amazing experience and a wonderful group. Nine years later, I still keep in touch with some of them. I owe so much to that class; they are the reason I didn’t shy away from teaching. Their diligence and openness contributed to my decision to continue along this path.
These days, I get to spend time with intellectually curious, socially conscious, innovative and hard-working students on a daily basis. Who wouldn’t love that? I am consistently impressed with what my students have to offer their peers and community. My position is distinctive because I am able to instruct undergrads in lower and upper division courses. It affords me the opportunity to see students grow, change, and challenge themselves throughout their time in college. It is a truly satisfying role to be in.
I adore working with students who continually challenge me. Seeing their drive inspires me. If they’re willing to devote significant time and energy to their work, I need to be on my A-game. There is nothing more motivating than working with students who are ready to put in the requisite time and energy needed to conquer the challenges they’re presented with.
I never dreamed of becoming a teacher; however, this position is an excellent fit for me. I have the great fortune of teaching many individuals who deeply care about their work, purpose and the well-being of those around them. If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is.