Teachers do more than convey subject matter and skills, although that is an important role. They can also inspire, and even change your life.
Joshua Baker has seen this firsthand. He grew up in a tough New York City neighborhood and, in high school, had trouble finding his focus. College seemed out of the realm of possibility; no one in his family had ever gone on to higher education, and Joshua’s family – like many others in the neighborhood – struggled to make ends meet.
“During my high school years, my grades were like a roller coaster going up and down,” said the SUNY Broome sophomore.
His high school English teacher changed his course, giving him the confidence he needed to succeed. She met him after school to tutor him for free. Joshua, now an Early Childhood Education major, still keeps in touch and wants to follow in her footsteps.
“I want to pay it forward. I feel I could be a bridge in another person’s life,” he said.
The transition to college hasn’t always been easy. He dropped out of college twice in the city – Brooklyn College and Medgar Evers Community College, respectively – when he couldn’t juggle the demands of helping out his family and his education.
To finish his degree, he knew he needed to leave the Big Apple and initially considered SUNY Jefferson before choosing SUNY Broome, which offers a pathway to Binghamton University. Going away was the right choice – but a difficult one.
“My mom was a single parent, and I always helped her take care of things, for better or for worse. I felt I was being selfish, to go away and do something for myself,” he said. “Ultimately, I made the right decision and I’m breaking the cycle.”
During his first semester on campus, he instantly clicked with his peers and knew he would succeed. He is a resident assistant at the Student Village, which gives him the opportunity to hone his skills in leadership and conflict resolution, which will ultimately prove useful in his own future classroom.
His professors also inspire him. English instructor Alla Boldina reminds him of the high school teacher who set him on his current path, and Education Professor Lisa Strahley “always goes the extra mile for her students,” he said.
He has discovered a love for writing, which provides a way to channel his emotions and express his true self. He is currently taking a creative writing class on communicating ideas and values, which involves keeping a personal journal, a practice Joshua enjoys.
SUNY Broome’s Early Childhood Education program requires students to conduct class observations in the field. So far, Joshua has spent 10 hours with students with disabilities in a special education class and also conducted observations at Binghamton High School and his alma mater. He knows the population he himself would someday like to teach: teenagers, either in high school or middle school.
“Those are the ages kids make the decisions about the path they’re going to follow,” he explained.
When considering his transfer options – the next step for this future teacher – his perspective has broadened. He initially had his mind set on Binghamton University, but strong grades has led him to a new dream school: Northeastern University in Boston.
In the future, when Joshua at the head of his own classroom, he will continue to draw on the inspiration he received as a student – the teachers who changed his life. SUNY Broome has been an important part of that journey.
“It has been life-changing, seeing the environment where I’m from. Even the people out here, it’s so uplifting,” he said. “The atmosphere at Broome really helps kids succeed.”