Student Stories: Andrew Hays
I did my undergraduate work in political science and philosophy at SPU, where I was also a University Scholar. After graduating, I was accepted to Teach For America, and taught fourth grade for two years at He Dog Elementary School in Parmelee, South Dakota. He Dog is a small, country school on the Rosebud Reservation, which is home to the Sicangu Lakota band (the school, by the way, is named for a compatriot of Crazy Horse).
I returned to Seattle to get married and attend law school, though I would have loved to stay at He Dog for additional years. I did get married, but I had a change of heart regarding law school. I wanted to return to teaching, so I applied to SPU's Alternative Routes to Certification program.
In March, I finished my certification requirements, and I can honestly say that I now have an enriched sense of what is possible in education. Having worked only in low-income, high-needs schools, I might have developed a limited vision of how rich curriculum can — and should — be. My courses at SPU, however, pushed me to think about how I might go beyond teaching basic skills and about how I might teach in a way that actually changes my students' life prospects.
Probably the most important revelation concerning my faith came through a professor's talk on "radical optimism," and how this relates to his teaching. I won't say that I'm radically optimistic, but I aspire to it. I don't know that it's really possible to be a great teacher without radical optimism, without the ability to relentlessly hunt for the good in life and in others, and make the most of it.
I hope my students feel an urgent need to learn, and that they know that need will be met in my classroom. I hope that my role is reduced to "guide," as students take responsibility for their learning.
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