The Teacher: Jamie Yoon

December 12, 2011

I remember all of my school teachers.  I adored most of them, admired and idolized them. Mrs. Thompson’s teeth clicked constantly. I wanted my teeth to click too. Mrs. White had a large mole on her chin with a long hair growing out of it. I remember gazing at her with unconditional esteem and affection for said mole-hair and all. Mrs. Shelley embraced me after I threw my math book on the floor in a fit of frustration. Mrs. Shipman aggressively jerked me out of line, humiliating and FALSELY accusing me of disrupting order. Ok, I hated her, but I loved all the others. I truly did love my teachers. They inspired me, and still do. Everyday.


Where are you from?
I was born in Queens, New York, but I moved to California when I was young and lived here most of my life.  I grew up in the armpit of California, known as the San Fernando Valley.  I know, sad.  I finally made my escape when I got married and moved to a small and “humble” residential area known as the Hollywood Dell.  Love, love it.

Who and what do you teach?
I have the pleasure to teach 9 and 10 year olds (4th grade) 180 days a year. I teach all subjects.

Why do you teach?
I teach to make a difference in someone’s life; even it means one person.  When a light bulb in a child’s head goes off in the middle of making a connection and you see his/her excitement and self-confidence radiate, there is no greater reward.  Plato stated, “Those having torches will pass them on to others.”  These words were what I based my philosophy of teaching on when I prepared my portfolio as a student teacher 5 years ago, and they continue to resonate in me today. I teach in hopes to pass on the “torch of knowledge” to my students.  I anticipate that they will utilize it to light the path in their lives someday no matter how dreary the road maybe.  I hope to create independent, self-confident, responsible, and positive young minds that aren’t afraid to take on challenges.

On a scale of one to ten, how important are teachers to your government?
In the perspective of the government…hmm…seeing that we are treated like the ugly step child, stripped naked of the bare minimums, asked to teach to raise test scores (which mean nothing), and constantly demoralized with pink slips, I’m not sure…a 1?  In the perspective of a hard working teacher, probably a 10.

How would your school system handle it if a teacher wasn’t doing her job well?
Unfortunately, there are many teachers in our school system that have lost their passion for teaching and are incompetent, yet continue to teach.  It is not easy to fire a teacher, unless he/she has committed a felony.  Even then, the accused teachers are sent to “rubber rooms” in the district to wait for trial. The district keeps these teachers as long as it takes to sort things out, while the teachers get paid daily.  The district does this probably to avoid getting sued for any wrongful terminations. If the teacher is just lousy and hasn’t committed a felony he/she will most likely be under close scrutiny and thoroughly logged by an administrator.

Why did you become a teacher? Besides the fact that I have the magic touch with children?
Haha.  Sadly, growing up, I could not say that I had a particular teacher that stood out to me or felt like a mentor.  Not to say that I did not have any good teachers, however, not many that I could remember who truly reached out or spoke to my heart.  My friends, on the other hand, ranted about which teachers they have kept in touch with and how much of their successes were owed to these teachers.  Envious of my friends and in awe of those teachers who were able to make such an impact, I knew that one day when I became a teacher, I would become that mentor, sculptor, and teacher I never had.

What subject would you add to your curriculum?
To be honest, the pacing plan that the district expects us to follow is very overwhelming.  The amount of content that we are asked to teach in order for the students to be prepared for their districts tests is quite disgusting.  We are required to cover so much in such short periods of time.  Many subjects are put on the back burner, like Social Studies and Health, which are so valuable in real life. Creativity and fun is being sucked dry from the curriculum, even though I try my best to incorporate them wherever I can.  I just want to TEACH and not teach to tests!  If we lived in a perfect world, and we were allotted more time in a day, I would incorporate more arts into the curriculum.  Being an artist’s daughter, I was fortunate to inherit a fraction of my father’s creative mind.  I want to use that creativity more to bring to life what the students believe are dull subjects like Social Studies.  The class would do more theatrical simulations, art projects, explore realia, and do hands-on experiments.

How do you feel about the role of teachers in your society?
Like any well built structure that has a strong foundation, I truly believe and hope others do too, that teachers are what lay the foundation of a well developed society.  Without great teachers how could there be great doctors, lawyers, businessmen, and etc…I believe that teachers are what mold these professionals to become who they are.  We are extremely responsible everyday in encouraging and educating young minds that will one day lead the country. Therefore, along with many others educators, I am discouraged when society portrays us as lazy, overpaid, and whiny human beings.  Not all teachers get off at 2:30 and are indestructible “Supermen”.  Therefore, we need to start being more appreciated and understood.  Teachers should no longer be given the short end of the stick.  It is unfair to stick 35 plus kids in a class; expect all of them to be reached, and then to be assessed as an effective or ineffective teacher based on their test results (which was recently slandered by the L.A Times).  Things need to change.

Do you ever regret becoming a teacher?
No, I do not.  Though I have been pinked slipped now three years in a row and have survived to tell about it, I still love what I do.  I will never stop wanting to work with children in some form or another. I have just lost a lot faith in our state and its priorities about education.  I think it is absurd to cut money from education, lay off thousands or teachers, and increase class sizes. End of story.

Would you encourage your child to become a teacher?
I would encourage my child to pursue anything that he/she believes in.  I would never limit his/her passions because of my own fears of failure or doubts.

How much maternity leave do teachers get?
Usually 6 weeks after the birth of the baby. Complications or Cesarean section may necessitate a longer leave.

How many sick days?
In our district we get 10 days a year.  Since I have not been absent for more then 3 times in 5 years, I guess if I get laid off, I can use my 47 days to just not show up for the last month and a half of the school year. Ha!  I’m kidding…

What do you collect?
I honestly wish I could say philosophical books or life enhancing poems, but I am guilty….it’s shoes.  Thank god I am a poor teacher on salary that can’t buy all the shoes that I really want. Fail.

You’re going out on a much needed girls night.  What will you do and what will you wear?
Teachers are known to be the wildest! Haha.  No, my friends and I would usually peruse the streets to find good eats and sling back a few drinks to ease the stress.  When I go out, I love to wear whatever makes me feel comfortable but usually paired with handmade gold jewelry and lovely high heels.

What’s your favorite piece of jewelry?
My engagement ring that my husband got custom made and engraved for me.

What is your most delicious creation in the kitchen?
My husband would say every dish, which he should, but honestly with my hectic teacher lifestyle, the Crock Pot is my best friend.  Set it and go….I cook everything in it. For example, Thai curry, Indian Chicken Tikka Marsala, turkey chili, Korean stews, tortilla soup, pulled pork, pork chops, and so much more! If you don’t have one get one today.  It will change your life.