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Teach One – Reach One

Title – Teach One – Reach One

By – Deby Stewart

I became a teacher later in life at 41. My first teaching job was at a technical school teaching Business Applications to adult students who were hoping to make career changes. One of my students was transferred into my class in the middle of the school year out of another teacher’s class due to a big personality conflict with the teacher – hey, we can’t all like everyone. The other teacher warned me she was a troublemaker, so I was a bit apprehensive to have this student come into my class, but decided to give her the benefit of the doubt and welcomed her anyway.

All her life she had been a waitress and her mother had been a waitress. Her mother had died a few years before of cancer that went untreated because as a waitress, she had no health insurance. So this woman was determined to do whatever it took to learn the skills she needed to get the kind of job where she could support her 3 kids (she was middle 30′s and a single mom) and have insurance for them all. And that was why she was so determined to stay in school even if it meant switching teachers to do it.

We covered Microsoft Office and this student learned faster than anyone. Every day she came in early to practice typing so that she would have the speed to get a good office job. She bought a cheap computer so that she could work at home and was always the first one to turn in her assignments. When her old computer had problems she figured them out and read books until she could fix them. Whatever the problem had been with the other teacher she excelled in my class.

She also found that she loved helping other students – when someone was stuck or was having a problem, she was the first to be beside them showing them what to do. She started telling people she waited on at the restaurant that she was taking computer classes and they began to ask her to come and help them with their home computers. She started helping them for free and then after a few months started charging a small fee. Because she did such a good job, the people happily paid her for her time. She started to realize that she had a talent for troubleshooting and helping others with their computer problems.

By the time she graduated from our class in the spring, she already was done with waitressing and was signed up and working steadily with a local office temp service. Most of her jobs were on Help Desks and one became a Temp to Permanent with a large local company’s IT department.

A few months after graduation, she came to see me in my classroom and said she had some wonderful news. She said I was the first person she was telling and that she had just that day been hired as a permanent employee in the IT department of this large company due to her excellent computer skills and her kind and helpful manner on their employee Help Desk. Her new salary would double her temp salary, plus vacation and of course fully paid insurance for her and her kids. And she wanted to thank me because without the knowledge she had gained in my class and the encouragement I gave her she felt she would never have gotten to where she was.

Of course I was thrilled for her and wished her much luck in her new job. Which could have been a great ending to this story -

but wait there’s more.

About three months later, I received another call from her and she asked if she could come see me again. She said she had some exciting news and wanted to tell me in person. When she got to my room she was almost bursting with excitement. She said “something just happened and I couldn’t wait to tell you.”

She had just had her six month review and her work had been so outstanding that she had just been promoted to the manager of her IT department and her salary had been doubled again, this time from her permanent salary level – which would mean she could even start thinking about buying a house. And she now had her own parking space in the company garage with her name painted on it. So I congratulated and we hugged and did a little victory dance. And she said “

wait there’s something you don’t understand

.”

“Right before I decided to take the business class at your school, things were so bad my kids and I were living in my car. Every night I had to try to find someplace safe to park just so we could sleep and not be in danger. One of the places we used to park at night was in this same parking garage – and now I have a space with my name on it. You can’t imagine how much that means to me – thank you for making it all happen.”

So then we hugged and cried and did another (bigger) victory dance. I haven’t heard from her in several years, but I am sure that where ever she is, she is a success.

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Deby Stewart

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