Education Works

FLDOE strongly believes that Education Works!  As we travel the state and meet with teachers, I like to talk about how my education has made a difference in my life.    We as educators know that Education Works; let’s hear some of your stories. 


Wow!  What a topic.  There are too many stories or directions this can take.  I have impacted so many students, but I guess it starts with me.  I am the first person in my family to not only graduate from college but go on for a masters and end the cycle of poverty for myself.  The rest of my family are still struggling.  With that change, I have truly become a lifelong learner and am currently exploring options for my doctorate.

Over the years I have taught students from kindergarten to college level.  I have taught at risk, criminals, and gifted.  I have been fortunate to make profound impacts with the wide range of students I have met.  We are not always successful, but there are moments. Since there are so many, I will share one.

I helped 86% of the students in a level 2 juvenile justice facility achieve a GED every year for four years straight.  This is an extremely high success rate for a GED program.  These students had opportunity opened up for them.  There was no chance of them to return to high school. With their GED they were able to attend college, technical schools, and the military.  Many of them did just that, and like me were able to break their own poverty and other cyclical issues in their lives. 


I had always planned on being a scientist…. I loved every aspect of science and wanted to play a role in making new discoveries and embarking on the great unknown.  While in graduate school for my doctorate in Geochemistry and Sedimentology, I was assigned to teach a freshman lab group and cover one weekly lecture for my advisor.  I was completely freaked out!  But something happened when I got up in front of those 200 students….I wasn’t afraid.  I didn’t feel inadequate.  I felt like I had something to share and that I was able to share it in a way that every level of student in that room could appreciate it.  I was one year away from graduating with my doctorate and I went to my advisor after that semester and asked to teach the class again.  I asked for all of the responsibilities and enjoyed every aspect of the planning, grading, and lecturing.  After that semester, I changed my course path and graduated with a Masters and sat for a teacher license. I started teaching in a middle school and have been for the last 10 years. 

I always felt that I wanted to be one of those people that was out changing the world and making a difference.  I felt that teaching others was giving them the tools to do what I had always wanted to do but just never could.  When, in fact, teaching was what I did always want to do…. and I have the 5th grade picture that my teacher had us draw to prove it! 


 Education does work. I am a first generation college graduate. I didn’t go back to school until I was 30. I looked at my children one day and realized that if I wanted them to believe that they could be a successful college graduate I was going to have to set the example. I worked two jobs went to school full time and would not have survived without my parents. My first job was at a teen parent program and I found out that most teen moms are so disappointed in their choices and overwhelmed with thier new responsibilities that it takes a large amount of encouragement and support to get them through. The girls are grown adults now and out of the group of 14: three have BA’s in criminal justice, one is a dental hygienist, two are managers at fast food restaurants in town and the remainders are gainfully employed. I still run into them and sometimes we talk about the days that they just wanted to quit and I told them every day that they could do anything they wanted to do and be anyone they wanted to be. That is what my mother always told me and now I tell it to every student I teach.


I just had a teacher moment today. A student answered a question I asked, and I heard an honest and correct response using the vocabulary of the class. It was a small moment, but those are the ones that make us realize, “I’ve taught that kid something.” That’s what keeps you coming back for more.


My 8th grade English teacher was included with all my other teachers during a parent teacher conference.  One of my other teachers actually told my parents that I was a trouble maker, would always be a trouble maker, had no desire to learn, and would never amount to anything.  My English teacher at the time reprimanded him, and proceeded to inform my parents quite the opposite.  I would say that both teachers heavily influenced my education… just in different ways.  Being a first year teacher at 40 years old, I still think about Mrs. S, and the positive impact she had on my life, and how it motivates me to stay positive about even the most troublemsome of students.


Education has allowed me to become an advocate for causes I believe in!  Without the knowledge base to understand how to research and express my opinions I would not be able to advocate for change in issues I feel are important.  Education is the key to becoming an influential person in your own community and world!

Reply by Chris Yip  

Education plays a huge part of my life! Immigrated to the US with my family in my teen year, I appreciate how education has enabled me to make sense of different areas of life. Apart from the cognitive challenge, education has provided me a platform to interact with people from different walks of life. Finally, education molds me become a life-long learner which, I think, is the essence of education.


Education does work!  I am a first generation college graduate.  I went into teaching with educators as my role models. My former high school teachers Michael and Wendy Tellone made the greatest impact on my decision to become a teacher. In fact, Michael was kind enough to counsel me on  returning to college in my mid-twenties to pursue a career in education.  I struggled through college as a divorced single parent and, with my children’s help and encouragement, I graduated with a Bachelor degree in Foreign Language Education from the University of South Florida.  Now, I have the immense pleasure of watching two of my children pursuing degrees of their own; one at Florida State University and one at the University of Florida. Education begets education. Education in Florida does work!


I strongly believe that education is the foundation for a better life. I saw this first hand as a young boy. Living with my parents and three other siblings I began my childhood leaving my native country of Colombia and trying to adapt to the United States. Seeing each of my two parents work long, hard hours and me having to take care of my little brother and two little sisters, took a tool on my youth.

As I grew up I noticed one thing that my father would always tell me, “son you need to get an education so that you dont have to do what I am currently doing.” And what he as doing was working 18 hour shifts and sometimes on the weekend as well in order to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads. My mother also worked but it was my father who brought in most of the funds for our home. Being responsible at a young age made me the man that I am today. As a young boy I would constantly tell myself that when I grew up that I would not have to work long hard hours and that I would have the time to spend with my children.

Thanks to my father’s dedication and my mother’s will and advice, I stand before other children as a mathematics teacher providing them the necessary knowledge so that one day they may be able to become productive citizens of this country.

Education has brought me along to be a better citizen, father, husband, son, and especially, the teacher that I am today. I strongly believe that had I not gone to school and had I not had some sense of direction that I life would have definitely turned to the wrong direction. I truly have to thank my parents and God for the guidance that I received as a child. If it wasnt for them pushing me to get an education I would not have what I currently posses as this moment, two beautiful children and a wonderful wife.


I work exclusively with “at risk” students.  I work tirelessly to break through that they can overcome the low expectations that they hold themselves to.  I love running into my former students and hearing how they are graduating from college or are in the vocation of their choice.  I have one student who just recieved their acceptance letter for Graduate School toearn an MBA.  I know that I have made a difference because I can remember giving him a tisue because he was crying that I believed in him and he went ahead and applied for college.  What a difference we can make!


During college I worked on a project called Through Students Eyes. It brought to light the challenges that students face in coming to school and also the things that encourage them to come to school. The students take pictures and write reflections. If you follow the link there are middle school and high school resources for implementing the program in your school. 


I consider myself to be a shining example of the benefit of education.  My mother and father both graduated from high school but neither pursued higher education.  My father worked in a factory and my mother on an assembly line until she got into clerical work.  I earned the Bright Futures Scholarship and that was the only reason I was able to attend college.  My husband has the same exact story (down to Bright Futures!) – and we have beat the odds!

Now here I am, a graduate of The University of South Florida (and student of their Honors College) with my bachelor’s in ESE and I’m working on my master’s in ESE.  My two year plan is to be a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and, farther down the road, have my own practice by the time my son is old enough to start school.  I’d like to show him that where you’re from does not determine where you’ll go and he can go absolutely anywhere he chooses. 



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