• Courtney Fortunato

Discover Your Passion Through the Passions of Others: Two CHS Teachers Explain Their Career Journey

As some of us are approaching our final years of high school, we begin to actively think about the uncertain future that is before us. How are we supposed to know what we want to do with our lives? It seems like the impossible question. High school is a time for pursuing your greatest interests and trying new things. With college or some form of career ahead of us, it seems as if the time to make our greatest mistakes and chase after new passions is drawing to a close. However, the teachers that instruct and support us everyday have already asked and answered this question for themselves. In fact, it seems as if they still do every day.

Mrs. Atkins, the AP Calculus and Multivariable Calculus teacher, began her college career as a math major at the University of Alabama. She has always had a passion and a curiosity for math that began in her high school career after the guidance from her treasured former math teacher, Mrs. Motes. However, after two years of walking the grassy quad at the University of Alabama, she became curious about the career pursuits of her closest peers. Many of her college friends were education majors. She described how after some years into her college career “their enthusiasm for teaching rubbed off on me” Mrs. Atkins then changed her major and decided to become a math teacher. And, what a great decision that was.

Mrs Atkins has been recognized nationally for her achievements in the field of education as well as winning top ten teacher of the year in the school district. Most of all, though, Mrs. Atkins believes that is her students that have made her career. She expressed her hopes to have not only impacted their lives but how her student’s have shaped hers. With a smile, Mrs. Atkins described her appreciation for the “countless memories of incredible students who inspired me during their high school years and continue to do so as adults.”

When asked what advice she has for students who will soon be going to college and trying to decide on a major or career path, Mrs. Atkins cited Professor Deepak Malhotra’s speech to the 2012 graduating Harvard MBA students. In his speech, Professor Malhotra explains the value in what he summarizes as “quitting early and quitting often.” Mrs. Atkins related this back to her teaching career because she is able to start anew each year, and she watches students grow with each semester.

Soccer coach and Spanish teacher Mr. Torres gave remarkably similar advice. His advice to students is to not worry about having everything figured out right now as “things will fall into place.” Professor Molhatra encourages his students to ask questions like, “am I really excited about this option? Is this really, really what I want to do?” Likewise, Mr. Torres advises students to “...not be afraid of change. Whether it is your major or your boyfriend/girlfriend, if it is no longer what you want, change it.”

Unlike Mrs. Atkins, Mr. Torres did in fact begin college with the desire to become a teacher. Throughout his life, he has loved the game of soccer and wanted to include this in his future career. He began with the intent of becoming a P.E. teacher, but after listening to a trusted mentor, he decided to fulfill his calling to teach Spanish.

Although not originally what he intended, Torres described how becoming a Spanish teacher has exceeded his expectations. Candidly, he stated, “I think one of the most important jobs of a language teacher is to teach students how to be open and receptive to the different perspectives, practices and products of other cultures and people in general.” Mr. Torres has also been able to follow his passion for soccer by coaching the Columbus High School men’s soccer team.

The daily experience of a student can be stressful at times. Even though the majority of life is still ahead on a long and winding road, many of us still wonder if we are on the right path at all. In the discussions with both teachers, two major themes were present. One theme is to listen to those in your life who are experienced and want the best for you. Not only can these people inspire you, but they can teach you to see options for yourself that you didn’t know were possible.

Additionally, it’s okay to not know your life’s passion or your future career. In fact, it is okay to still not know what you want to do years from now. Part of finding your place in the world and your greatest passions means also finding a lot that you aren’t interested in. As put by Professor Mohaltra, “sometimes quitting takes more strength than perseverance.” Or in the words of Mrs. Atkins, “My hope for every student is to find their passion in life and a career that compliments their talents.”


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