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Former Teacher Inspires Students to Follow in Her Footsteps

Relay-2.jpg

When Mayme Hostetter started teaching English at a charter middle school in the Bronx neighborhood of New York, she had no idea how much of an impact she would make on her students. Now, more than a decade later, 11 of Hostetter's former students have begun teaching careers of their own at the Relay Graduate School of Education—a residency-based program where Hostetter has served as a national dean since 2008.

After leaving the classroom to pursue her master's in education, Hostetter helped found Relay GSE in 2007. This past weekend, five of her former students graduated from Relay—and many credit Hostetter with inspiring their careers in education. Five others completed the program last year, and one plans to finish next spring.

"As a teacher, one of your hopes is that all of your kids become the people they want to be and choose the lives they want to live," Hostetter said in an interview with Education Week Teacher. "It's rewarding when one facet of that life is the profession that you value so highly."

Still, Hostetter might be in the minority of teachers encouraging students to follow in their footsteps. Award-winning teacher Nancie Atwell ignited a controversy by criticizing the effect of the Common Core State Standards and standardized testing on the teaching profession. "If you're a creative, smart young person, I don't think this is the time to go into teaching unless an independent school would suit you," Atwell said in an interview with CNN.

While Atwell later backtracked on her comments, my former colleague Jordan Moeny uncovered a long history of teachers advising against entering the profession—and citing concerns like low wages and lack of respect as far back as the 1940s.

And despite attempts to spark students' interest in education through courses and programs on teaching, teenagers across the country are continuing to lose interest in the profession. Hostetter noted that while over half of incoming college freshmen show interest in teaching, that number sharply decreases by their senior year. "I would love to see more intentional efforts to keep people interested in teaching, to help them feel connected to their professors in college, and to help them see how what they're learning in college could be brought to bear in middle school or high school classrooms," Hostetter said.

As negative opinions about the profession seem more and more prevalent, some educators are pushing back against these perceptions. Veteran English teacher and Ed Week Teacher blogger David B. Cohen recently challenged teachers to share "positive stories about public education to offset each negative story that's out there," and elementary school teacher Cristie Watson suggested that the key to solving high turnover rates is for educators to foster a long-lasting love of teaching.

Hostetter's advice for those considering a teaching career? "Do it! It is the best job on planet Earth," she said. "If you stick it out, if you persevere through those first couple of hard years, the rewards are really untold. This last week has proven that to me—the highs are really high, and the longer you stick in the profession, the more joy it brings on a daily basis."

Teachers, would you encourage your students to pursue careers in education? Share your thoughts in the comments, or by tweeting @EdWeekTeacher.

Clarification: A previous version of this story mischaracterized the students' status as teachers. They are teaching while going through the Relay program part-time. 

Image of Mayme Hostetter (second to left) with her former students, photo courtesy of Jessica Kelly 

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