When did you decide you wanted to teach? For many educators, we often feel like becoming a teacher happens as if by magic! Yet, our career in education is the summation of years of decisions and scaffolds. We must not forget to thank mentors along the way! When I wrote my book, A Cog in the Machine, I never realized how many decisions I made, and the untold adventures of my childhood would culminate in my career in education.
A note on a career in education versus teaching. First teaching is only ONE aspect of a career in education! Classroom instruction as we define it is just a slice of educational opportunities. Most teachers understand the career ladder of a teacher in a classroom, then principal, and then superintendent. Sometimes people will add college professors to the mix, but SO MUCH MORE actually exists! There are instructional coaches, subject matter experts, and support roles within support structures, called in my state BOCES (Boards of Cooperative Educational Service). You can volunteer as a Board member for a professional group, or do what I did, and become a consultant! A career in education is more than just the traditional classroom role.
In Cog in the Machine, I write about how my experiences growing up impacted my career. I had two amazing and supportive parents, who introduced me to curiosity! So many books, magazines, and vacations included trips to museums and historic places. One place that truly sticks out in my mind is the Chicago based Museum of Science and Industry. So many different subjects under one roof. The museum contained examples from geology, physics, biology, chemistry, and technology tools. As a family we spent days in the museum, looking at exhibits on cars, trains, genetics, and crystals.
I am certainly blessed to have enjoyed support as I asked why, and investigated (through utter destruction, I do admit) second hand store products and devices. My brother and I tore apart an old alarm clock, and we looked at the wires, transistors, and circuit boards. We played with the speaker magnets and learned that some metals stuck really well to the magnet, while others ignored the pull.
My time at summer camp, with Scouts, allowed me free range in environmental, conservation, crafts, and outdoor activities. I learned how to weave a basket. I explored the woods, streams, and meadows looking for and observing signs of wildlife. As part of the badge requirements, I had to present to groups.
I enjoyed growing up in the Greater Buffalo and Niagara region, where Niagara Falls is well, Niagara Falls. We visited the Turtle, a Native American Cultural museum. We explored the Buffalo Museum of Science, and saw mummies! I loved learning all about different cultures, and this love of learning launched me into thinking closely about what different communities and cultures thought about the world.
What is most impactful in my career, however, are the stories I heard from family members who were the World War II generation. I listened as my grandparents recounted what they did in their jobs and the world around them. For a college class at Fredonia, I interviewed my great Aunt about what she learned about the decision to use the Atomic Bomb as part of my historiography class. What she knew, and remembered was so interesting compared to the academic books we read in class. This taught me an important lesson: always remember people have a worldview that is theirs, for right or wrong, and as educators, we must use grace, appreciation, and best practices to understand, and then if necessary, educate people.
My career as an educator benefited from two other major ingredients: my mentor Nancy, and then Martha, both helped me understand my strengths, and explore areas for growth. Both Nancy and Martha helped me achieve goals along the way, like finding my career in higher education and then finding my voice as a writer. I also benefited from working with Dr. Sarah Thomas, Melody McAllister, and Mandy Froehlich from Edumatch publishing. The birth of my books definitely benefited from their nimble support.
Finally, I want to thank my students, past present, and future for inspiring me, and allowing me the greatest opportunity ever: to work with you, as you experienced growth, questioned assumptions and created paths that had laid undiscovered. Your inventions, your lesson plans, and your creativity and caring are impressive! I am profoundly amazed to watch you raise money for charity, implement opportunities for children, and most importantly support each other through triumphs and disasters. You are the heroes in my journey!
About the Author
Dr. Casey Jakubowski
Casey Thomas Jakubowski, Ph.D. is a 20-year educator, consultant, and leader in the world of improvement practice. Writing on rural education, Casey has presented internationally, nationally, regionally, and locally. A student of history, sociology, geography, STEM, and innovation, with a unique career, characterizes, Casey holds firm the Servant Leadership model. He is a national, regional, state, and local award-winning mentor, author, and presenter in the areas of Civic Education, Community Service, Volunteer Leadership, and innovation. He is the owner of CTJ Solutions, LLC, and the Chief Innovation Officer of Greenstone Consulting, LLC. Academically, Casey has served as an adjunct, Associate Director, and Department Chair at a range of institutions.