Teachers Explain: “Why I Teach”

WHEELING -Wheeling Park High School visual arts teacher Caroline Ihlenfeld-Dillon knew as a child she would be a teacher. She made her little brother – U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld – take spelling tests, and she graded them.

Calculus teacher David Crumm said his goal as a teacher is to help students learn be the best they can be, and realize math really is applicable in their daily lives. English teacher Gail Adams, meanwhile, only has to look down at a ring on her finger to remind her of her place as an educator, and why she chose to become a teacher.

Teachers across the nation are taking to social media and using the hashtag #whyiteach to tell the public what motivates them to inspire students in their classrooms each day, and Adams said she teaches because she believes in the power of knowledge.

“I think sometimes the world loses sight that we are people who choose to be here on a daily basis,” she said. “By publicly stating why we teach, people get to see we choose to be here. And they need to know that. I think it helps us take a more public statement of pride. We’re proud of what we do every day.”

Adams was named 2015 Teacher of the Year for West Virginia, although education wasn’t her first career path. She worked in the banking industry for 13 years after graduating from WPHS, then was a stay-at-home mother for 16 years and involved in her children’s education.

After they reached high school, Adams decided she would return to college.

It also was at this time that her former high school journalism teacher, Rosie Lydell, passed away, leaving her a small sum of money in her will. Adams saw this as a sign she should choose education as a career path.

“She was someone who always believed in me, and pushed me to achieve more than I could – or thought I could,” Adams said of Lydell. “The money made me realize she still was still pushing me to finish that degree, making me aware that I could do that – even many years after graduating.”

Adams also purchased for herself a three-stone ring to symbolize the role education and teachers play in our lives. She said the first of the three stones was for Lydell; the second, for former WPHS principal and benefactor Phyllis Beneke; and the third was for her.

Adams is now in her 12th year of teaching, and she believes in mentoring young teachers. Earlier this year, Adams nominated Riley Lynn Bonar, a reading teacher specialist at the Warwood School, for a full-tuition scholarship at the University of Phoenix. Bonar is a former student of Adams’.

“I believed in Riley the way Mrs. Lydell believed in me,” Adams said.

Crumm has been a teacher for 19 years, and he is working toward getting an administrative certification.

In high school, he had aspirations of playing center field in the major leagues, but he always knew someday he would become a teacher. Crumm was inspired by his high school math teacher, Allen Underdonk.

“I teach because I enjoy helping people be successful,” Crumm said. “I enjoy seeing a light bulb come on in a kid’s eye – whether it’s in the classroom, or in life in general. I talk to the kids not just about math, but about life. If we can reach them in any one of those avenues, I feel I can help someone achieve their goals and dreams. I feel some of them may even start dreaming, because they never thought they had the possibility for it before.”

Students often ask him if they will ever need to know the higher math skills he is teaching them.

“I will ask them what they are interested in, and then I’ll find something about math that pertains to what they’re doing,” Crumm said.

Dillon remembers when she was in high school, one of her favorite teachers was visual arts instructor Pat Clutter. She already had a passion for teaching, but he inspired in her a love for broadcasting. It was an especially hard-hitting experience for Dillon when after college she was hired as a permanent substitute for his class, and he died on her second day on the job.

She has continued to teach the visual arts class for the past 18 years, and she said it has provided her with “the best of both worlds” in teaching and broadcasting.

“For the students in our program, it’s not all about majoring in broadcast journalism,” Dillon said. “We want the students to be able to communicate better with people, speak up for themselves, believe in themselves, and believe they can do what they need to do. … I’m very proud to be a teacher, but I don’t know that teachers always get the recognition they deserve. The teachers who shaped my lives made me who I am today, alongside my parents.”


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