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Meet a Real Teacher

Name: Christina Cervantes

Education: Southwestern Adventist Southwestern Adventist University

Location: El Cajon SDA School, CA

The Job: Christina’s workday as an elementary school teacher begins at 7:30 a.m. when she and her fellow teachers gather at school for worship.

After a long day of teaching energetic third, fourth, and fifth graders (she has all of them in one classroom), Christina lets them out at 3:00 p.m. But her day isn’t over yet.

She usually spends an hour or so grading papers and preparing for the next day. Although she teaches only Monday through Friday, her weekends are also spent preparing lesson plans and materials for her upcoming class sessions.

Christina says the worst part about her job is the endless grading of papers. The toughest part is helping the kids get along. But the part she loves best is the moment when a student truly understands what she’s been teaching them. And of course, recess with the kids is fun too!

Words to Live by “In my classroom I get to be a missionary, someone to excite kids about God. I love to read stories with them for worship, because I want Jesus to be real to them. And when they come back later and tell me about a story they remember me reading, I know that makes Jesus smile, and it makes Him more real for me.”

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I remember my first hero—the gallant charming Mighty Mouse. He wore a little flying cape and a spandex bodysuit. As often as I could, I watched him travel the world and save critters.

When I got a bit older, I discovered the glamorous bravery of Wonder Woman. I used to twirl in my living room, bumping coffee table and couch, hoping that I would be transformed into a six-foot goddess who could run like the wind in stiletto-heeled boots.

Then, at the age of 6, I met Diane Hardison. Unlike my heroes of the past, she dressed modestly, donning long skirts with loose sweaters.

Instead of wielding fantastical weapons, she held in her hand a piece of chalk. She taught me to read the poetry of Shel Silverstein, create stormy beaches with tempera paint, and most important, how to write. She inspired the rest of my life.

In the second grade I learned that teachers are the best of heroes. Ready to meet a hero-in-training? Allow me to introduce you to Troy Rincon.

When Troy entered Southwestern Adventist University in Keene, Texas, he set his sights on business and enrolled as a corporate communications major. An outgoing person, he figured it would be fun to meet new people while conducting business.

Although everyone around him thought he’d be a great teacher, Troy refused to give it a try. But a feeling or intuition kept nagging at him. Although business classes were fun, Troy felt as if he wasn’t in the right place. So by the end of his sophomore year Troy declared himself an elementary education major.

“It was kind of a Jonah thing,” says Troy. “It was in the back of my mind, but I kept telling myself I didn’t want to. When I accepted teaching as my calling, everything just fell into place.”

Now a senior, Troy has had a lot of experience as an elementary education major. And he’s willing to teach us some of the basics about studying education.

On Course: Typically, colleges don’t offer an education major. Rather, students choose a specific subject or liberal studies major and then take classes toward an education credential. How does the education major work at Southwestern?

Troy: Well, I’m an elementary education major minoring in history. So I learn about the methods and theories behind teaching elementary students, and I also specialize in history. It’s kind of a reverse situation compared to what happens at other schools.

OC: What are the bulk of your classes like?

Troy: I take method classes on all the subjects that are usually taught at the elementary school level, such as math, reading, and Bible.

OC: Are these basic review courses?

Troy: Kind of. But we’re already expected to know most of the subject matter because we took it in high school or in general education classes, which are a prerequisite to methods classes. Actually, we’re learning how to represent the material and how to teach it.

OC: What’s been your favorite class so far?

Troy: Arts and crafts for elementary school. It’s fun! You get to keep all this cool stuff you’ve made in class. I made a turtle out of molding clay.

OC: Certainly sounds better than writing a research paper on turtles. I’ve been told that education classes require a lot of observation labs.

Troy: They do. After you’ve taken your general classes and some lower division education classes, then you start doing observations, which means we observe a real class and teacher.We have to do about 25-30 hours of observation per semester. For every methods class, we have to do 10 hours of observations, and during two of those hours we’re required to teach the class.

OC: How do you know what to teach?

Troy: Well, you talk with the teacher you’ve been observing and teach along the lines of what they’ve been doing.

OC: When do you do student teaching?

Troy: At our school we do our student teaching our senior year; it may be different at other colleges. (Sometimes students do their student teaching after graduation, which is like a fifth year of school or a first year of working without a paycheck.)

Basically, you teach your own class for about 12 weeks or a semester. Usually you just teach in one school and classroom. But if you want to, you can mix it up and get a feel for different areas. I know one student who’s teaching half-time at a private school and half-time at a public school.

OC: What do you think is the hardest part about becoming a teacher?

Troy: I’d hate to say that kids are intimidating, but they are. I sit there and think to myself, I’m going to have a classroom for an entire year, and what I teach them will affect them for the rest of their lives! But at the same time that responsibility is really awesome.

OC: What’s negative about the major?

Troy: It’s very time-consuming. There are a lot of little things you have to do—little lesson plans, projects, papers. Whereas other majors might require one big paper, here you have smaller but more frequent projects due all the time. It can be a lot of busy work.

OC: Who should give education a try?

Troy: People who like kids and have a patient personality. I think they should have a fun personality, too. To me, teaching needs to be fun. You need to be able to have a good time presenting material in a fun manner. And of course you should love what you do.

OC: With an elementary education degree you can teach grades K-8. Where do you want to focus?

Troy: My goal is to teach junior high. I want to catch kids before high school, where they think they know everything. It’s the last chance for me to be able to make an impact on their lives.

I’ve seen so many kids who have no hope. They feel awkward at that stage in their lives, and they don’t know what or who they want to be. That’s what drives me to teach.

OC: It’s easy to see teaching as a service and a way of witnessing. But do you see a relationship between your major and your spiritual life?

Troy: Yes. As a teacher, I think you teach your students your lifestyle. You show them how to be good citizens in the world. I want to be able to portray a Christlike character to my students and to point them in the right direction.

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