By Courtney Gillen
I grew up outside of a small rural community, where everybody knew everybody. My elementary class consisted of less than twelve students, and the teachers were so much more than just educators. They were counselors, coaches, nurses, and even parents. Teachers made sure that every child felt appreciated, supported, and understood, and I believe that is a key ingredient in a student’s success. When a child doesn’t feel appreciated or important, they can lose faith in themselves and feel like they are just another face in the crowd. It is easy to stand in front of a classroom and lecture out of a book, but it takes someone with true heart and determination to see the potential in a student and stop at nothing to help them achieve their dreams. And being that someone has always been my dream.
I have always had a passion for helping others and working with children, but it wasn’t until I became a paraprofessional for Monmouth-Roseville (Illinois) that I felt my true calling toward teaching. I was inspired by some of the teachers I had the privilege of working with, one which I am lucky enough to have as a sister. These teachers made an extraordinary difference in their classroom every single day, and they were changing the world. I knew this was something I was meant to be a part of. Sometimes the struggles of a rural community do not always seem apparent. Some students can come from heartbreaking situations. But the greatest feeling in the world is when you have the chance to be the support that those students desperately need. Teachers of the world are making a difference in the lives of their students every day, and that is the most amazing reward a person could ask for.
My journey at Monmouth College has helped me rediscover my love for learning and grow as a future educator. Being a part of the TARTANS program has given me an amazing opportunity to grow as a future rural teacher and discover what I can do to strengthen my community. I feel extremely blessed to be a part of the Rural Teachers Collaborative and very eager to learn about all the wonderful things this program has to offer.