The Many Paths to Teaching—and How It Becomes a Calling

Pearson recently sat down with a handful of teaching veterans who’ve been recognized as Teachers of the Year in their own states. They talked about their craft, their students—and the future of learning.

It Started With Concern

Barbara LaSaracina says she became concerned about math and science education in schools when her own daughters were young.

“I wasn’t convinced that these kids were getting the working knowledge to lead into the next century,” she says.

Sitting at a dinner with New Jersey’s then-governor Thomas Kean, Barbara shared her concerns.

He challenged her to give up her job and become a school teacher.

Barbara did—was named 2000-2001 New Jersey Teacher of the Year—and talks of her story in this video about how great teachers became teachers.

‘A Different Currency’

“I did take a cut in pay,” Barbara says after leaving the private sector for teaching.

“But I always tell people teachers are paid in a different currency,” she says. “Our currency is watching the faces of children when they’re inspired to learn and learn more.”

An Unexpected Meeting

Topher Kandik was volunteering in an after school program called the Southeast Project in Washington, D.C.

“We worked with kids in the neighborhood who didn’t have constructive things to do after school,” he says, “so they would come over with us and, over the course of two or three months, we wrote a play together.”

Actors from Washington’s Shakespeare Theater ended up staging the play.

“Years later,” Topher recalls, “I was taking the train home and there was a young man who was standing above me.”

He said: “You don’t recognize me, do you? It’s Marcus from the Southeast Project.”

“The whole train ride home he talked about the play,” Topher says, “and how much fun he had and how impactful it was.”

“And I thought to myself, this is something I should be doing,” he says.

Topher would eventually be named the 2016 District of Columbia Teacher of the Year.

This is part of a series of conversations with great teachers. Hear the other inspirational stories: