Pictures and mementos from former students line the classroom walls as students scribble down their notes and hang on their teacher’s every word.
For Gayle Konderla, a sophomore Mathematics Major participating in the Aggie Teach program at Texas A&M, that’s the dream.
“Every person, usually when they get into high school, has one or two teachers that they will remember for the rest of their life,” Konderla said. “That’s my goal. I want to be the teacher that pushes my students to be the best they can be, but also I want them to know that I really care about them even outside of the classroom.”
Becoming a teacher, however, was not the first career Konderla considered.
“I changed my major three times before my new student conference, and finally I decided to do math,” she said. “I’m very passionate about having a positive influence on people and so I was like, well I’m really good at math, and I’m passionate about people and so that goes hand in hand with teaching.”
Quality education comes from quality teachers, but with a lack of incentives to enter the field, standards may be declining.
“[The quality of education] is very dependent on the area, population, like who is going to the schools, but mainly the quality of teachers,” Konderla said. “I think that the biggest problem with people being upset about the quality of education comes from the fact that there are not really very many incentives for people to be teachers.”
People who have the potential to become great teachers may seek other careers.
“So then you get a lot of people who come in and become teachers just because they need a job, and they’re not actually doing it because they love what they do,” Konderla said. “And if your teachers don’t care about their students, then your students aren’t going to care about learning. And then your quality of education is just kind of down the drain.”
To attract quality people to the profession, people need to be willing to take action to improve education.
“It’s easy for people to say we need better teachers and that we need better education,” Konderla said, “but they’re not willing to do that. And so I think we have to find a balance between, ‘Oh, do we actually want better education?’ and if we do, ‘Are we actually willing to make sacrifices to make that happen?’ because it’s not just going to happen by itself.”
Another problem to conquer in the classroom is breaking through students’ mindsets of only learning to pass a test.
“A lot of [students] just come in like, ‘OK I have to pass this test,'” Konderla said, “and I think that’s probably one of the first things that I would look at and say, ‘Ok, yes there’s a test, and yes you need to pass it, but that’s not why we’re in class right now. You’re not here to learn how to take a test, even more so you’re not just here to learn math. You’re here to learn life skills: how to want to learn and how to grow as a person.’
“I’m going to be a math teacher,” Konderla said, “but I’m not just going to be teaching my students math.”