Vashelle Nino is a recent graduate of Texas A&M University-Central Texas. She majored in English/Secondary Education and student-taught at a school with more than 90% of students of military background. She recently move to Hawaii and was recently hired as a 10th and 11th Grade Special Education English Teacher at Mililani High School in Mililani, Hawaii.
Is it a cliché to say that I am teaching because of everything that has happened to me? I
hope it’s not, because I cannot point to any one event that turned my life around. I began my
journey to becoming a secondary level English teacher only five years ago, but I now realize that
almost all of my life’s experiences have had a hand in leading me toward this path.
I was an ‘Army Brat.’ I went ten schools in four states and one foreign country, and the
disconnect among them really messed me up. My love for learning at the elementary level quickly
became a source of great discontent in middle school — because of the disconnect between
curriculums from one state to another.
A once Gifted and Talented student, I began falling behind and earning D’s and F’s. I was too young to understand that the disconnect was the problem, not me or my brain. I was embarrassed by my level of performance and occasionally ridiculed by a teacher or two, and, instead of asking for help, I allowed myself to fall further and further behind.
By the time I began high school I had little interest in receiving an education, and so I became a misguided adolescent. I was never defiant toward my teachers, but my lack of motivation and direction often kept me away from school and in the presence of questionable places, characters, and situations.
Mere luck allowed me to complete high school largely unscathed and on time but without much in the way of aspirations.
It wasn’t until I became a full-fledged adult (mother, wife, mortgage payer) that I looked
back on my younger years with disappointment and deep regret. My personal strengths surfaced
only after I became a mother, but, rather than wallow in regrets, I decided to use my regrets as
motivation. Maybe I could help keep some kids from falling into the pit I had been in. And so I
became a full-time college student, determined to become a teacher.
When I was student-teaching, 90% of my students were my mirror image: ‘Military Brats’ whose parents were on their third or fourth deployment overseas. I could easily recognize the gaps in their learning, as well as their need for structure and stability. To make any difference in their
lives (my goal), I knew I first had to build relationships with them. I did so by letting them know
that I understood their struggles, because I had once been in their shoes. Then, to close the gaps in
their learning, I made the content relevant to their lives, which I know is important to any type of
student. Finally, I had to provide the structure and stability which can often be lacking in the
personal lives of military children, especially those with parents that are deployed. I was successful
at this by being firm — but fair.
I am about to embark on my first year as a “real” teacher. Though I was a little late in finding my purpose, my time as a student-teacher solidified what I knew in my heart: that my early struggles set me up to be able to connect with the students and make a difference in their lives and learning.