Each day during Teacher Appreciation Week, Spectrum is sharing a teacher’s story and how they view the work of Adventist education.
Veronica Cooper is an elementary school teacher.
Can you tell me a little bit about your background and what inspired you to become a teacher?
Before entering the teaching profession, I worked as a legal secretary for many years. After a period, I began to find secretarial work mundane and unfulfilling. I yearned for a career/profession that would give me greater autonomy and the opportunity to create and help others. My search led me to The London Montessori School where I enrolled in a primary education course. I thoroughly enjoyed learning how to teach and engage young minds in the Montessori method. It was the first time I had experienced education from a teacher’s perspective, and I loved it!
When I moved to the United States, my desire to become a teacher was put on hold. I sought employment as a legal secretary because I had a lot of experience in that area. Initially, I worked for an immigration law firm in New York. After a few years, I left to begin my own Montessori preschool. I started with a very small student body, but after a short period of time, the potential for its growth became apparent. This led to my decision to pursue a degree in education. As a newly baptized member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, I was encouraged by a friend to apply to Andrews University. I attended Andrews University and earned my bachelor of science degree in elementary education. I also have a master of science degree in education from Walden University.
How long have you been teaching, and what subjects and grade levels do you specialize in?
I have been an Adventist educator for 27 years. I have taught multi and single grades from grades 1–4. As an elementary school teacher, I have taught all subjects except music.
Why did you choose to work in Adventist education? What do you appreciate most about it?
I did not choose to teach at an Adventist school. Prior to graduating from Andrews University, I prayed and asked God to place me where he most needed me. I was prepared to teach at a public or Adventist institution. God led me to Minnetonka Christian Academy in Minnesota where I didn’t know a living soul!
My first year of teaching at an Adventist school was challenging. I had to make many adjustments. One of them was not having easy access to family and another was the long workdays coupled with the ups and downs of school and life in general. In fact, I asked God if I could retract my prayer about placing me where he most needed me. I have grown since my early years of teaching to appreciate the educational profession much more. I see the classroom as my mission field where I labor to prepare my students to be his disciples. There are some days when I feel successful in my mission field, but there are other days when I question if I have made a difference in the lives of his children—only time will tell!
How do you balance your personal life with your teaching responsibilities?
Unfortunately, it’s not easy for me to switch from teacher mode to personal life. I’ve been working at it for years and it has got better with time. For me, personal daily devotions and being able to disconnect from work during the Sabbath hours and turning my full attention to God helps to balance work and personal life. Taking time to enjoy things that relax and rejuvenate my mind like being with family also helps tremendously.
How do you stay motivated and inspired as a teacher, especially during challenging times?
What motivates and inspires me as a teacher, especially during challenging times, is my strong desire to please God in all aspects of my life. I live to do his will. I am also motivated and inspired by encouraging words of wisdom from other teachers and leaders, being able to explore new ideas to facilitate learning, seeing my students serve others, watching them grow spiritually and intellectually, observing them take charge of their learning through independent research, and learning of their career choices after graduating from college—some of my former students are now teachers in public or Adventist schools. God is good!
Raquel Mentor is the associate digital editor for Spectrum.
Photo courtesy of Veronica Cooper.
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