Teacher Stories: Heather Staples, Manchester High School English, Tomorrow’s Teachers
When my sister and I were very young, our mom worked at a convenience store down the street. She had always wanted to pursue nursing, but she never seemed able to find the opportunity. She grew up in Jersey City. She didn’t have a car when she lived there; she didn’t even have a driver’s license when she was of age. But after my sister and I were born, when we were old enough to be aware of what was happening, she got her driver’s license and went back to school. She made it a point to try her hardest with all of her classes. When she couldn’t get childcare, my sister and I would be sitting in the back of her class learning about health techniques for people who wanted to become nurses. My mom went on to become a nurse, and we learned at a very young age that education was the key to success. She was 32 when she finally got her nursing degree. She had a lot of people who thought she had already had her path set for her, but she knew what she wanted, and went for it. That made a lasting impression on my sister and me. She is still an emergency room nurse at Kimball Medical Center to this day.
So it is very important for me to help my students see how important education is. I have a lot of high school kids who get discouraged because they think that by the time they are 16 they should have their future all figured out. But I am always reassuring them that it is never too late to find your path. I want them to find their passion and what they feel strongly about and not to rush it.
When my son was in Kindergarten and first grade, the teachers started noticing that he was acting differently than the other kids. They did a lot of testing, and we found out that he was on the spectrum. I immediately joined groups for parents of children with autism, and talked to other parents so I could learn what it all meant for my son and our family. I can honestly say that that diagnosis changed me very drastically. You suddenly see your students and people in general in a very different light, as you see how different people have different ways they process information and life itself. Learning that changed me as a teacher in the classroom. I have learned that if kids seemed like they do not want to tune in, or are emotional, that a big key as a teacher for me is to give them time to allow them to work on their terms, and not expect a one-size-fits-all approach. I want my students to really know that my class, that school is not just about the tests and things like that, but about the experiences and the connections of what they are learning with real life itself.
- Interview by Gregory Andrus