My name is Natalie Pierzga. I am a senior at Appalachian State University who plans to graduate in December of 2014 with a degree in Secondary English Education. I was born in Easton, Pennsylvania and lived in New Jersey until I moved to Apex, North Carolina in 1998. In my future as an English teacher, I hope to use literature as a way to help my students see themselves, their peers, and the world around them as richly and complexly as possible. As cliche as it may sound, I hope to change at least a small part of the world through my teaching. I hope to allow students to challenge the way they view the world, and I hope to encourage complicated and respectful conversations about issues in our world that are difficult to understand. I always grew up saying that I wanted to have an impact on the world. Well, the best place to start when trying to impact the world is with young people. And so, here I am.
I’ve known since my junior year of high school that I wanted to eventually teach English. My story, I imagine, is very similar to those of most future educators. I had both incredible teachers in high school who inspired me to teach as well as they taught me, and I also had terrible teachers who inspired me to want to teach better than they taught me. My interest in English came from my creative writing teacher in 11th grade, and my British Literature teacher in 12th grade. I fell in love with both reading and writing, and more importantly, I became obsessed with why it is important for us, as human beings, to read and write, and to do it well.
I’ve always seen literature as a sort of window into a life that is completely different from my own. And so, in reading about something that I don’t know anything about, I am given an opportunity to empathize with and relate to someone who, at first glance, I may have nothing in common with. The opportunity to find common ground with someone who may be your polar opposite is a crucial chance for young people to have. By providing students the opportunity to connect with literary characters with vastly different backgrounds than their own, we allow them to begin to imagine other people as complexly as they imagine themselves. Further, when people start to imagine others as complexly as they imagine themselves, they are more likely to sympathize and empathize more effectively, ultimately making them more well-rounded and understanding towards others.
As far as the writing component of teaching English, I believe it’s extremely important for students to have the opportunity to create inside of the classroom. I also think that it’s important to take the product of what is created inside of the classroom outside the classroom so that students have the chance to receive feedback from someone who isn’t their teacher. Sharing writing also gives students a sense of pride in what they create, which will (hopefully) inevitably generate more interest in writing within the classroom.
So, long story short, I’m really excited to start teaching because I believe that reading and writing have the ability to change the way that people think and learn. And in my opinion, the world could use more than a little bit of change.