Editor’s Note: Through some miscommunication, this response from Arpine Ovespyan was not included in my Education Week Teacher series where educators shared the major influences on their teaching life.
Arpine Ovsepyan is an international awarded educator who has had the privilege of teaching high school English, GED preparation courses at the community college level, and graduate level teacher preparation classes to students in Los Angeles, California for sixteen years. An advocate for her students, she does whatever it takes to encourage and empower her students to agents of change in their world. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling with the love her life, Vahik.
As educators, we are blessed in making a difference in lives of future generations each and everyday. From teachable moments in the classrooms to mentoring students after-school, educators invest their heart and soul to influence students to reach their personal best. As I reflect on my origins in the educational field, by far the person who has had the biggest influence in my teaching is my Mom because she taught me the importance of discipline and determination. I used these qualities as pillars in my classroom management and instructional program. In doing so, I, like President Abraham Lincoln, agree that “All that I am or hope to be I owe to my Mother.”
When I started teaching English at a local high school where 9 out of 10 students speak English as a second language sixteen years ago, I would always turn to my Mom for support. She was an incredible mentor because she knew first hand the challenges of learning a new language since she spoke five languages herself! She would always remind me that I needed to discipline the students to exercise their communication skills in order to help them advance in this world. When I would get frustrated with classroom management issues, she would gently remind me that part of the reason the students are misbehaving is the stress they experience in going to school in a country that seems foreign to them and that is part of my job to help them feel secure and to do that I had to develop classroom systems to support their success. She would also emphasize the importance of seeing parents as partners in their child’s educational process and thus influenced me to engage stakeholder groups to be part of the learning process.
Additionally, my Mom influenced me to teach with determination. She would always remind me that the students look to me as their role model and I had to do whatever it takes to help them understand the course material. As an educator herself, she was well aware of the diverse learning needs of students and to never give up on our students. Often times, she would encourage me to look at students like flowers in a garden. Each one of them has their own talent and it was my responsibility to nurture and empower them to blossom into full bloom throughout the school year. This emphasis of using a differentiated approach to the teaching and learning process really transformed my experience as an educator because I was able to capitalize on each student’s strength rather than using a one-size-fits all approach.
As I am sure you will agree, teaching in the twenty-first century continues to offer its share of challenges and opportunities with the revolutionary role of technology and our ever-evolving world. We are witnessing our students’ needs change each and every year. However, the one constant that I use as my North Star and inspiration as I navigate throughout the year is the valuable advice from my Mom. She taught me to always teach with my heart and provide structure for students so they, in turn, can help make the world a better place.