Why I Teach and What Motivated Me to Become a Teacher

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December 29, 2020

By Mike Lerchenfeldt, Chippewa Valley Schools

Why do I teach, you ask? I teach because it is a highly rewarding and fulfilling profession. Teachers have one of the most important, meaningful and purpose-driven jobs of anyone working today. We share valuable information and important skills to encourage a love of learning that will serve students the rest of their lives. I do this work because I am committed to having a positive impact on the future of each student that I serve.

I wake up each morning and serve students at Iroquois Middle School. Being a role model, and teaching students the skills and knowledge they need beyond the classroom, is extremely inspiring and rewarding. No two days in the classroom are ever the same. Our lesson plans are constantly being adjusted based on student needs.

For me, motivation has always come from students in my classroom. I know that it is essential to make lesson plans interesting to get all students motivated to learn. I emphasize the collaborative and cooperative nature of scientific work. I do my best to creatively facilitate and encourage the engaging interaction between students, and provide feedback based on their observations.  

To accomplish our goals, teachers need perseverance, passion, validation and hope. And today, given all that is happening in the world, it is an excellent time to be a teacher, mentor and role model. Students come from various backgrounds and home lives. Students may come from homes that do not value or know how to value education. We have to adapt and differentiate our instruction.   

My former teachers helped me get to where I am today by providing me with an exceptional education. The math, reading and writing skills I developed as a student supported me in my journey to becoming a successful teacher today. Playing sports and being involved in student government taught me valuable life lessons about teamwork, time management and responsibility. As a student, I learned the benefits of getting along with people from different cultures, an approach which continues to assist me in my career. This lesson came full circle during recent travels to Japan and New Zealand, where I participated in teacher exchange programs. Through the program, I learned from and shared my experiences with foreign educators.

Twenty years from now, I would like my students to remember me as someone who cared about them. Someone who asked them about their interests, whether it was sports, art or videogames. Someone who listened to them when they needed someone to talk to. Someone who inspired them to travel to a different country to learn about a different culture. Someone who inspired them to care about the environment. Someone who taught them how to work with others and develop relationships by listening. Someone who taught them how to take care of themselves both mentally and physically. Someone who inspired them to become a teacher.  

So many educators had a positive influence on my life. They encouraged me to explore my curiosities, supported me to overcome my struggles and celebrated my successes. They cared about me, my learning, my life, and they wanted me to find happiness within myself, so that I could be capable of helping others. They inspired me and pushed me to be my best in the classroom and on the athletic fields. I am now trying to pay this positive influence forward to my students.

During my time in the classroom, I have learned so much about myself, my practice and my students. I pass along these thoughts to others in the education field, but the ideas are transferrable to any profession.

Be persistent. Never give up on students, parents and colleagues. Everyone is in this together, and it truly takes a village to educate a child properly.

Be open-minded. Listen to other people and their opinions. The more information you have, the better decisions you can make. Communication and organization are essential for highly effective teachers.

Think positive. There is a lot of negativity out in the world, especially within the field of education. You need to have a positive outlook in order to combat all the negativity.

Try different roles until you find your niche. Spend time with different people and in various extracurricular activities. Use your hobbies and passions as a guide.

Always want to learn. Whether it is a new technology or a new teaching strategy, teachers are life-long learners. We need to be learning alongside our students and show how passionate we are in seeking knowledge.

As I reflect on my role as a Proud Michigan Educator and advocate for the teaching profession, I continue to realize that teaching is a multifaceted endeavor, and not just a trade. The daily rewards and challenges make every day unique and, most importantly, worth it all.  

Do you know someone who wants to be a teacher? They can get a jumpstart on their teacher preparation program with free college credit opportunities now available to Michigan residents.

Modern States Education Alliance and the College Board have partnered with the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity to offer Michigan residents free online preparation courses for any of College Board’s College-Level Examination Program exams – giving Michiganders a chance to earn college credits at Michigan universities and community colleges without taking coursework. Learn more.

Mike Lerchenfeldt, a dad of two from Rochester Hills, is a teacher and writer who likes exploring different coffee and supporting local businesses. He traveled to Japan and New Zealand through teacher exchange programs. Mike has taught language arts, math, science, drama, poetry, speech, realistic fiction, information literacy and careers classes at Iroquois Middle School in the Chippewa Valley Schools for his entire 12-year teaching career. He was a member of the Michigan Educator Voice Fellowship. Mike earned his master of education degree in Educational Leadership from Saginaw Valley State University in 2012, and he graduated Summa Cum Laude from Oakland University in 2008 with a bachelor of science degree.
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