English and Journalism

“Do I Really Want to Be an English Teacher?” by Stephanie Gilbert

Three years ago, I never would have imagined myself in the midst of studying and preparing to become a teacher. As a young girl I was a noted writer in my small Chicago public school. I was constantly engrossed in reading and writing, making my teachers frequently impressed with the levels in which I was doing so. In first grade, at the age of six, I proclaimed to the world that I would one day become a famous author. English became my all-time favorite subject. I was always in honors English, and eventually in high school after honors wasn’t enough, I went for AP English. My junior year of high school, when I took AP rhetoric, I fell in love with writing all over again after losing sight of what writing meant to me after the transition to high school.

My teacher, Mr. Koch, made one of the most difficult personal years of my life into one of the most insightful and educational. He pushed me to keep going when I failed to keep up with the class assignments, made the material we learned exciting and unique and pounded rhetorical devices into our heads so efficiently that I can still recall them. I looked up to him, and constantly said to my peers, If I were ever to be a teacher, I want to be just like him. I wrote with passion in his classroom. I worked determinedly to better myself, my writing and my abilities as a student. I should have seen the signs that I would have wanted to embrace a teaching career then. Somewhere in my high school career I suffered a massive downfall with my stamina to be a successful student and writer. Instead, I found personal refuge in being the notorious friend who was the great listener and the great advisor. I felt accomplished and fulfilled after having a long session talking to a friend in need. I found myself regularly analyzing the actions of others and pondering about how and why humans acted the way they do. It soon dawned on me that my calling was none other than to be a therapist. As soon as I was accepted to Western Illinois University, I checked off my major as Psychology with a minor in English. Satisfied and excited to be a successful woman who had all the answers, I began college.

My freshman year at WIU shed a very bright light on my abilities as a student. It became evident that I was not meant to be a psychology major. My fascination with human actions did not decrease; however, my abilities to take classes based on science and math did not prove to be the best. I was bored, I was confused, and I was aggravated. After dabbling with academic probation, I decided it was best to move on to another major. At that point I did not know where to turn. It would have been easy for me to just make my major English since I not only loved it, but excelled at it. However, I wanted to have more than a major; I wanted a specific career path. My family and friends all seemed to suggest the same thing, why not become an English teacher? I resisted the idea at first because I didn’t think it would give me enough financial support for my future, and I didn’t know how good at it I would be. After weighing my options, I tried to imagine myself teaching. I rested my head on my hand and closed my eyes, seeing myself in front of a classroom. I remember getting goose bumps. I had not truly realized how much I would get out of teaching before this daydreaming moment. Not only could I continue my life working around English literature and language, but I could potentially change someone’s life. I could be what Mr. Koch was to me, an advisor, a guardian during tough times, an inspiring light, someone to push the extra mile when feeling as if it’s not possible to go on. I could choose a career where I could get the opportunity to listen and learn every day as well as having others listen and learn from me. I could be someone who gives students the opportunity to fall in love with English as I did. This is when I realized that being in the English Education program at Western Illinois University was the perfect fit for me.

-Stephanie Gilbert, Student Teacher Spring 2013

“Do I Really Want to Be an English Teacher?” (pdf)