Just over thirty years ago, I was working at Marine World/Africa USA in the Land Animal and Education Departments. I spent most of my weekends sharing information with the public about conservation efforts in the afternoon and the mornings were spent cleaning enclosures. During the week I would go to public schools and speak about the incredible animals who were visiting with them that day as ambassadors. For a zoology graduate from UC Davis, this was a dream job! Alas, like many dreams reality woke me up and it was time for me to grow up and start a career. Besides, MW/AUSA was being forced to relocate and most of our jobs were eliminated. So what does a wildlife scientist do when all the animals have gone away? Well, to be honest I just found some other wild and exotic animals to work with--I became a teacher.
But really, what has thirty years as a public classroom science teacher done? I took a moment to reflect on the fact that as thirty years have gone fine, over 6500 students have entered my classroom. Teacher in Space, Christa McAuliffe (killed in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster) once said, "I touch the future... I teach." Wow! In thirty years, I have touched nearly 7000 lives and by the time I am scheduled to retire, that number could reach to close to 10,000. I am overwhelmed by the enormous responsibility of those lives.
For some of these kids, differences were made. The former student who was bullied because of her acne, who often spent time after class to talk even if for a few moments, and is now a fashion model and YouTube celebrity (having created a make-up regime for her acne). Or the young woman who as she walked by me in a restaurant with a gleam of recognition, realized who I was and shared that she is now the CEO of her own start-up and that somehow my intervening during a crisis in middle school kept her going when she was thinking about suicide. Another is a budding politician. At least two have won Olympic gold medals. Many went on to college, have their own families now, some are teachers themselves, and unfortunately, a few have left us.