Journal content

I am a teacher and I stay

Every day that I log on to social media, I see stories of hordes of teachers leaving. Financial constraint. Behaviors are out of control. Parental support is absent. No one listens to what I need in this career, teachers tell everyone who listens.

They are not wrong. It has been a difficult few years. But what I don’t see are the stories of teachers who will return to their classrooms with smiling faces in the fall, ready to continue making a difference despite all the challenges. In fact, the majority of us choose to stay, focus on the best aspects of the profession, and remember why we ended up in a classroom.

I have always been a motivated person, even when I was younger. I have always tried to do my best to succeed. Some would say my stubbornness wouldn’t let me take no for an answer. This has not changed during my teaching career. Before the pandemic, I was always the first to say, “Let me do this!” I would apply for any leadership position and opportunity to impact curriculum and teaching. I’m telling you this because now that we’re coming to the end of the second full pandemic school year, I’m tired. And I’m not running to sign up for all the extras. But I’m not going anywhere either.

I come to school with the hope of a brand new day. I hope my 23 students will listen and be excited to learn. When they say things like “Ms. Landry, I wish you were part of my family” or “You make me want to learn and be in school” or simply “I love you! You are the best teacher! I remember my “why”. When my most difficult students show me their enthusiasm by saying, “I had the best day because I made good choices! my heart as a teacher melts and I know I can continue to be there for them.

These are children who started kindergarten and then, in March, had to learn at home. In first grade, they were virtual, hybrid, and in-person with masks. Now in second grade, it’s their first full year of in-person school. It was a learning experience. They had to learn to “do” school.

I did my best to make their year the best year ever! I started in August bringing tadpoles so they could see them turn into frogs. Eventually we released them and watched them walk away. In October, we carved a pumpkin, measured it, made guesses about what would happen when the pumpkin rotted, and watched it go back into the ground and start a new sprout. We read Harry Potter and dressed up as our favorite characters. Their enthusiasm was priceless.

Starting in January, we challenged ourselves by finding our favorite famous person and writing about them. We dressed up as our famous characters in a wax museum. Many of my students started second grade without reading or writing. They were crying and saying, “I can’t do this! So for them to come out of their comfort zone and present, I was so amazed and hopeful.

Through all these moments, there have been ups and downs. Some people have asked me what my plans are for next year. I say I love teaching and I’m staying here for the kids and the impact I have. I know that might not be enough for some teachers, but hopefully it will be.

By sharing my story, I want to change the narrative of the profession. Many teachers stick around and do their best to engage students in this ever-changing world. My vision is for all educators to stick with it. Things will get better and we are moving in the right direction. We just need to change our minds and show New Mexico that teachers stick around because there are a lot of good things about being a teacher too.

Kimberly Landry is a National Board Certified Teacher and State Ambassador to the New Mexico Department of Public Education. She is also a mentor teacher in her district.