Why Teachers Teach

By: Phil Mochel and Samantha Tran

Do you ever wonder why your teachers are here and why they teach? In this article, we dive deep into interviewing 4 teachers at Oceana High School to ask them the burning question, “Why do you teach?”  On September 2018, we interviewed Kent Yuen, Leigh Poehler, Daniel Hagen, and Coreen Hartig about their lives and what drove them to teach.

Story of Daniel Hagen

For Daniel Hagen, making an impact in our world today is an important ideal that has affected his life choices. This South African teacher volunteered and taught at a school near his hometown while getting his masters in Political Science and History. He witnessed the unequal educational systems in South Africa, with overpopulated and unclean classrooms.

Coming to America, California specifically, he joined a political campaign to increase public school funding. He feels that advocating for change in the educational systems will directly impact the world and the people in it.

Recently, Hagen has joined the Jefferson Union High School District as a Humanities teacher at Oceana High School in Pacifica. When he was asked what the positives of teaching are, he explained, “What I love about teaching is that I’m not detached from the outcome of my work. Biggest pro for me with teaching is being able to have that direct impact right in front of me with your [students] work.”

Teaching has allowed him to see the impact he has on his students. He sees the kindness and inclusiveness expressed in between students and staff. Seeing these interactions shows him that there is a future for our world and its well-being. By being a teacher, Hagen understands that not everything can be done by one person; it takes a community to make an impact and Hagen shapes students to become advocates who seek to change the world.

Story of Coreen Hartig

Seeing students discover the world, tell their stories, and watch them grow are the biggest factors that drove Coreen Hartig towards the career path of teaching. After double majoring in History and Religious Studies at UC Santa Barbara, Hartig contemplated what career she wanted to pursue: a lawyer, philosophy professor, or teacher.  After the death of a close friend, she reevaluated her life and how she wanted to make an impact on the world.

Teaching gave her the ability to change the lives of students: “Everyday is beautiful… even when things are really hard and difficult, you still see how amazing people are, and that makes it good.”  Through her teaching career, she has seen students have struggles and overcome them. Improvement of students is beautiful to her because her students don’t give up and they always keep striving to grow.  This is why Ms. Hartig is here working with Oceana students.

Story of Leigh Poehler

Ms. Poehler, a 9-10 house Humanities teacher, has somewhat of a different story. Sometimes people fall into their careers: ”Teaching is my second career. I was in publishing before this…I was looking for something that would be a good fit for my skills and interests and I sort of fell into teaching and I’m super glad I did. I love it.” Ms. Poehler had a career for a long time before becoming a teacher at Oceana. She found out that she loved the school and was thankful for choosing to teach.

When asked why she chose Oceana, Ms. Poehler described how she found out about the school and said, “I saw the job posting for Humanities and it was co-teaching and those sounded interesting… after feeling the feeling of Oceana and the view and where it is. This is the job that I want.”

Story of Kent Yuen

Mr. Yuen joined teaching at quite a young age. He said he had a teacher when he was young that influenced him: “I’m a teacher because… I had a teacher who influenced me where he said he became a teacher because he wanted to give back to the community that he got so much from [it] and I took it to heart…” and he said he decided to join teaching in high school! Also in the high school he went to!

During his interview, Mr. Yuen talked about how he became a teacher. He became a teacher with an emergency credential and got his credential while teaching, showing how much he wanted to be a teacher at our school.

So Why Teaching?

Teachers choose Oceana and teaching for important and very different reasons. But there is also common ground.  All the teachers in this article wanted to change the world.

There is so much more to teachers than just teaching. Teachers are here to help students learn and discover their world. They influence the lives of students to become people who make a difference in the world.  Hopefully learning about teachers’ motivations for teaching gives you greater perspective on why they do what they do. Now, go learn from your teachers!

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