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CHRISTENSEN: Helping shape, mold the future

As the saying goes, to teach is to change a life forever. Why do people go into teaching? That's easy.

Teachers want to make a difference in the life of a child. In my opinion, there is no profession nobler than that of a teacher. Teachers are consistent adults in students' lives. We teach so much more than the standards we assess each year. Sure, I teach the basics, but as a teacher, I also get to help teach my students the value of hard work. I teach them tolerance of others and why service in the community should always be on their radar.

When people ask me how many kids I have, I answer 44. I have two of my own and 42 fourth-graders. I take an interest in their lives. I know about their family, likes, dislikes, fears and dreams. I know them on a deeply personal level. My goal is to help my students be better than me, better than their family and even better than themselves. I set the expectations very high and help them push themselves to be the best they can be. We have a saying in our classroom that mistakes are proof that you are trying. This helps my students know that while the expectations are incredibly high, it's OK to make mistakes. My students can do anything they put their mind to as long as they try and never give up.

Every year in fourth grade, we read "Where the Red Fern Grows." Before we begin the book, we read about Wilson Rawls, the author. When he was a child he dreamt of being a writer and quite literally scratched the first lines of his novel in the sand banks of a river. As he grew, he continued to record his stories and stored them in a large trunk. When he was 45, he decided his work was junk and decided to burn the five manuscripts. Later, his wife helped convince him to rewrite the novel we know today. I love sharing this with my students as it gives them hope and perspective. The book was published in 1961 and is as relevant today as it was then. This discussion helps students understand they shouldn't give up on their dreams.

I give my students chances to give back to the community. Generosity is a powerful emotion that everyone should experience. My goal is for my students to think of others before they think of themselves. We give back to the community by picking up trash, planting flowers for our adopted LifeQuest home, and surprising neighbors with May Day baskets. As a class, we brainstorm many different ways we can volunteer and give back to the community.

So why is teaching fulfilling? I'm paying it forward every day. I get to help shape and mold the future! I feel honored, privileged and blessed to work with the most important people — the kids. Is there anything more important than education?