Catherine Temps of Hicksville High School discusses why she became a teacher, why teaching students practical skills is important and more.
Why did you become a teacher?
My grandmother influenced my career choice. She was an educator at the elementary and secondary levels for forty-three years. My grandmother thoroughly enjoyed sharing stories regarding her activities and experiences in the classroom. I was in awe of her happiness in the field of education. My siblings and I played school frequently. At each opportunity, I would take on the role of teacher. I taught my siblings in the areas of reading, writing and arithmetic. As a student in elementary and secondary school, I found satisfaction in assisting others to understand the coursework. Explaining to my peers came naturally to me. During high school, I found my passion in industrial arts.
Tell us about a teacher that inspired you as a student.
My inspiration to teach came from Mr. Anthony Naccarato, an educator at Massapequa High School. I was a shy student who refrained from speaking in front of a class. Mr. Naccarato provided and encouraged me to participate in a safe space. I was steadily emboldened to grow and develop my skill set and knowledge in technology. The classes that I loved the most were metal shop, woodworking, auto mechanics and cabinet making. I was the only female in a male dominant class. Mr. Naccarato recognized my strengths and afforded me the opportunity to serve as a peer leader/teacher in his classes. I gained much from his encouragement and knowledge. His support and rapport gave me the confidence to pursue my passion to become a teacher who invests their time, knowledge and skills with their students.
What did you experience or learn about teaching—yourself, your students, the process, etc.—during the pandemic that you think you will carry forward?
The pandemic has caused fear, challenges, uncertainty, constraints and change in the field of education. As a community of learners we have had to think outside of the box to invent and reshape ways to teach and learn. I utilized a variety of strategies to engage my students in hands-on activities on Google Meets. What I experienced during the pandemic was the camaraderie that was shared to support and help others during a most challenging period in our lives. The sacrifices and time that was shared will forever be etched in my mind. The creation of snack bags and face shields for our health care heroes was an experience that will not be forgotten. Humanity indeed prevails. The compassion and generous behavior observed by parents, students and staff will carry forward as it warmed and touched many. In fostering the attributes of humanity, I plan to continue to seek out opportunities, volunteer when necessary while working and maintaining the spirit of cooperation and the benefits of supporting and helping others.
What’s the most memorable thing a student has said to you?
Over the years I have had the good fortune to have many conversations and memories that have been shared by students. The most recent and most memorable statement that a student has shared was on March 1, 2021. On that date, I was recognized as the District Honored Guest for Founders Day. During the recognition and celebration a former student voiced, “that his life had been shaped and influenced by me”. He further stated that “ due to the lessons learned and my influence he was gainfully employed working on stage sets on Broadway”. At the present time he is a stagehand at the Metropolitan Opera House. This young man was the class clown during his time in high school. He entered my class during his freshman year and never left. He enrolled in every course that I instructed. He also took independent study and work experience which I mentored. He helped out building sets for the high school stage productions - for which I was the technical director, and even returned after graduating to help out using his expertise from the Metropolitan Opera. As a member of the robotics team he drove the robot for four years. He involved himself in everything STEM related and consistently offered a helping hand to after school activities. His statement will always be memorable as it is the ultimate goal of teaching each day. My passion is working with youth in guiding them to reach their fullest potential. The reward of teaching and making a difference to students is and was recognizable in his statement. For this I am grateful for my career and life’s purpose.
What has been your toughest challenge as a teacher so far?
The toughest challenge that I have experienced as a teacher has been the reluctant learner who struggles with their experiences as a young adult. I find it sad to observe students who appear rebellious and anti-social. The profile of this student is challenging. I utilize strategies to connect with individuals who are not happy with where they are in life. I continually encourage and support my students to help them to understand that life can get in the way, but they possess the power to change the course to become the person that they desire to be.
What has been your proudest moment as a teacher so far?
Teaching has included many proud moments as my career has been built on my beliefs about my career choice. I believe my career choice is to do all that I can do for my students and the community. I am proud of the impact that I have had on the school community. I enjoy working with others and I am proud of my teaching and coaching experience of the secondary robotics teams. The bonds and rapport that have been formed are for a lifetime. My proudest moment is the observed influence that I have had on my students. It includes smiles, hand written notes and observations of students who have turned their failures around to meet success.
What surprised you the most when you first started teaching?
In starting my career as a teacher there were many surprises at the secondary level. What surprised me the most was the adventure and pressure of first year teaching. My challenges were physical and mental. Physically I am short stature. I stand at four feet, nine and three fourths inches tall. The mental surprise was the commentary from others suggesting that I was not going to be successful in handling a technology classroom.
How do you keep students engaged and interested?
Student engagement is natural in the hands-on classroom. I come to school each day with a smile and a “go get it” attitude. I connect student learning and activities to the outside world. I also ensure that I encourage all students on a daily basis in and out of the classroom. I foster the spirit of cooperation in the classroom environment to ensure that we are all responsible for the classroom and each other. The success of the environment, teaching and learning is dependent on all of its parts. As a teacher, I assume the role of coach and facilitator. I am involved with an extensive range of activities in the school community. I connect with my students by engaging with them and their interests. I attend sporting events, dramas, concerts and competitions.
What is an aspect of being a teacher that you think most people outside the profession don’t know or fully understand?
Teaching is a career that is purposeful, valuable and challenging. Each day a teacher faces and interacts with many students, parents, faculty and staff and no day is the same. A teacher must know their content and curriculum but they must also know their students’ life or situation. Teaching requires dedication, flexibility, practice, performance and planning. It also requires time and space to recharge. Teaching is not one size fits all. Teachers must engage all learners in preparation to becoming productive and contributing members of society.
What advice do you have for aspiring teachers?
Teaching is a noble career that serves as the foundation for all others. Teaching is a gift that you share with others that you meet during your journey. The gift of teaching is reciprocal as bonds are created. In becoming a teacher, you will be afforded with the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of many. Remember, that each day is a brand new day in teaching. Teach your curriculum, share your knowledge, watch the growth and development and provide hope for our future. Love your career choice! The rewards of teaching are exciting and heartfelt.
What is the most important thing you hope a student takes away from your class?
As a teacher in technology, I want each of my students to take away from my class the transformable skills gained. I want my students to apply their knowledge of technology, spirit of cooperation, humor, goal setting and connections as they age. I want them to remember the value of learning, asking questions and the importance of helping others. I want them to always follow their heart. In selecting their career they should love what they do as this will make their life complete.