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  • Writer's picturejrdreistadt

What I love most about being a teacher

Over the nearly 20 years that I have been a teacher, I have had the privilege of teaching and learning with thousands of interesting, smart, and accomplished people. Many of my students have touched my life in a special way that continue to influence me today. I am sincerely interested in my students’ lives, interests, and projects, so it is always a true pleasure to hear from a current or former student to hear what they are working on.

A few months ago, a former student from Temple University’s Pan African Studies Community Education Program reached out to me. I taught there from approximately to 2002 to 2004 and it was the first time that I taught a semester-long class rather than workshops. I taught an entrepreneurship class rooted in the powerful history (both recent and long ago) of African American contributions to the field.

Jermaine was an ideal student. He always sat in the front row. He actively participated and asked questions. He was there to learn and to grow. One night, he brought his son along to class to include him in that particular phase of his entrepreneurial journey.

So it doesn’t surprise me one bit that Jermaine is very successful today. By successful, I mean he is able to dedicate his time to doing what he loves most and he remains grounded in community and his faith. You can check out his work here, here, and here

What does surprise me is that Jermaine attributes his success to what he learned in the class that I taught more than 15 years ago. It’s so nice to be appreciated by a student, especially when there are unfortunately so many others that do not appreciate my high expectations, attention to detail, and holistic approach to teaching concepts. But what happens in the classroom is ideally the start of something special rather than just a detached space where we get filled up with knowledge. It’s what we do with what we learn that matters most. And Jermaine took what he learned, applied it, played with it, made it his own, and created something new and unique.

When Jermaine reached out to me, he told me that he’s sort of assessing his journey so far, checking in, reflecting, and getting insight from other people about his work. Perhaps this is another part of learning that is so important – humility, conscience, and pausing to gain clarity. 

In assessing my journey as a teacher, I recently decided to stop teaching at a university after being in that realm for 14 years to take my teaching online. And when the time is right, I’m going to take my teaching back on the road, too. I’m creating collaborative teaching spaces that value connection, creativity, purpose, and possibilities. I hope I meet many more great students like Jermaine along the way.

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