[ Teaching & Learning ]

Why I teach

Kyle Russell, a member of the Perry Professional Educators Association, is a middle school science teacher

Kyle Russell full body photo
If there was one thing I was certain about in life, it was the profession I wanted to pursue after high school. Ever since I could remember, I knew I wanted to become a teacher. From career days in elementary school, to college days in high school, I always had the same response, “I want to become a teacher.” Even though I knew my goal, I wasn’t sure which path to take until I had ninth-grade science with Ms. Jennifer Howell and 12th-grade science with Ms. Maria Vowles at Hilton High School.

Ms. Howell was my ninth-grade Living Environment teacher. What I remember most about her was how I always left with a smile because of the fun I had in her class. The way she would incorporate funny pictures on worksheets, how she would come up with cool labs and the way she presented material. Especially having us flex our arms to remember the role of the mitochondria!

Ms. Vowles was my 12th-grade International Baccalaureate (IB) biology teacher. Even though her course was challenging, she did everything possible to make sure I was successful and prepared for college-level courses. Whenever my friend and I would ask to study during lunch, she never hesitated to say yes. It was during this time I started to realize how much she cared about me. Yes, we reviewed our notes, but she took time to bring up sports and other things I had an interest in. This has always been with me and something I will never forget.

I am now in year five as a junior high school science teacher and I am loving every minute of it! Thanks to Ms. Howell, I try to bring fun into my lessons as much as possible. When covering cells, I have my students flex their arms for the mitochondria. Before the holiday break, I have students create a cell ornament like I did when I was in school.

Thank you to Ms. Vowles for showing me that the smallest gestures go a long way for students. I attend after-school events, stick random notes of encouragement in lockers, send positive postcards home, hang birthday signs on lockers, and have conversations outside of science about things that interest my students.

So, what is my why?

In my five years of teaching, I hope I’ve had an impact on the students who have come through my room. I want my students to remember how much I care for them and all the things I do to make them smile. My life changed because of Ms. Howell and Ms. Vowles, and I hope I can do the same for my students by showing how much I care about them.

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What’s your why?

Countless talking heads outside the classroom have a lot to say. We want to hear from you. Why did you choose the teaching profession — and why do you stay? Send submissions up to 500 words, along with a photo, to united@nysut.org.