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Rising Stars: Becoming a Better Teacher All the Time

By Erdin Beshimov

When her plans for a fellowship abroad fell through, Eleni felt she was destined to become a teacher. One school took a chance and found a teacher who marvels at the development of her students.

Name: Eleni Lampadarios
School: BA - Connecticut College; MA - Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
Major: Russian and Eastern European Studies
Years Out of College: 5-10
Title: Teacher
Company: Independent School
From Then to Now

"It does seem a little odd that a major in Russian and Eastern European Studies would end up teaching high school history, but when my top post-graduation plan of doing a Fulbright fellowship in Macedonia fell through, it seemed meant to be when I received an interview at an independent school in New Jersey. I went to independent schools all my life, and I always loved the environment of such schools, especially the close relationship between students and teachers, so while I was applying to the Fulbright, I also applied to a head hunting agency for independent schools. I honestly think that my first teaching job in New Jersey was my big break. I was a history minor and didn't have any education classes but this school took a chance on me and was excited about the possibility of bringing my Russian and East European knowledge to the courses. Even though I left after two years to attend graduate school, my experiences there influenced me and gave me the opportunity to return to teaching a few years later."

Challenges Faced

"There is no easy way to start one's teaching career. No matter how much you try to prepare for it, the workload, the courses, and the students can throw you off track pretty easily. I felt like my first few years teaching was all about sinking or swimming. It isn't like I had difficult students or colleagues but it is a constant challenge deciding how to construct your lessons, how to grade effectively and efficiently, and how to keep pace with the school year. Now in my fifth year teaching, I have more control over my work and a better sense of how to approach the courses and students. However, I still feel like I am in a constant stage of growth and development and that I am still learning who I am as a teacher."

My Experience

"We start with assembly each morning and then I usually teach 3-4 classes during the day. The 'free periods' fill up pretty quickly with meetings, student conferences, lesson planning, and impromptu discussions with colleagues about courses and
activities. There are so many things that are exciting in teaching. First, it is never a boring job - there is always something unexpected and new each day. Second, the relationships that you develop with students over the course of a few years is key.
It is fun to teach students in different levels and see how much progress they've made in a couple of years."

Advice for Others

I have heard over and over again that it takes hard work, effort, and time to grow into a strong teacher. This is so helpful because it reminds us that just because there can be some difficult times in teaching, it does not mean that you are not meant to be a teacher.

It can become frustrating if you don't believe that with the right amount of will, effort, and guidance you can make and implement the decision to become a better teacher. I would encourage students who are thinking about teaching to persevere and stick it out for a few years. I promise that you will be rewarded for your effort."

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