A student asks Tammy Shih for help with reading.A student asks Tammy Shih for help with reading. Photo by Nick Onken.
Why I Want to Teach
As 13 third graders greeted me with, “Good morning, Sister Tammy,” I realized that becoming a teacher was not just a future possibility — but a present reality.
I’m in the middle of student teaching at Zion Preparatory Academy, a private Christian school in inner-city south Seattle. I chose Zion Prep because I wanted to learn at a school that is dedicated to the success of inner-city students.

Helping to develop young minds

It sounds very “Christian-ese” to say that my calling is to teach in the inner city, but I don’t know any other way to say it. I have focused my entire college education toward that goal. Why? As I learned more about the educational achievement gap in the United States, I had a desire to help close that gap, or at least shrink it.

At SPU, I am majoring in psychology, minoring in global and urban ministries, and earning an elementary education teaching certification. My three areas of study have taught me all that goes into the development of a person, the skills I need to help narrow the achievement gap, and the social environment of the students I want to teach.

Deepening my sense of calling

The class that I teach does not fit nicely into any of the “typical” classrooms that I learned about, and I’ve had to adjust to what are appropriate yet high expectations for these third graders. Student teaching has been a place of trial and error for me. At the end of each day, I have learned more about the students and how to teach in such a way that they will learn. Every day I come to school with a list of activities and a pile of lesson plans. And each day, my knowledge comes face to face with the reality of being in the classroom. Thankfully, Zion Prep is a place where I am given the grace and freedom to challenge my biases and stereotypes of inner-city students.

Sometimes I feel discouraged, but my sense of calling to the inner city has only deepened. My moments of frustration are mixed with moments of hope.
There’s nothing like seeing a child actually understand the material or sit down ready to learn. When I watch my students grow and be challenged, I know that the achievement gap can shrink.
By Senior Tammy Shih, Photo By Nick Onken
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