Pathways to Teaching

Last week, Secretary Duncan launched the TEACH campaign, and with it a new website,, where aspiring teachers can come to find their pathway to teaching. As an ongoing series, we will be featuring teachers from around the country, and have them tell their story of how they found their calling in the classroom.

Nick Greer, a Teaching Ambassador Fellow at the Department of Education, was a Baltimore City high school science teacher and former Baltimore Teacher of the Year.

“This child is more frustrated than she needs to be,” I thought to myself as I watched a frustrated young girl throw parts of the toy she was playing with across the room. “…Just another day at New Beginnings Learning Center, I suppose,” was my next thought. As I approached, I recognized that she was trying to solve a three-dimensional puzzle that involved cogs and gears that could be used to move an object. I also realized the problem she was having right away, and recognized two options for helping her. The first was to simply pick up the pieces, finish the puzzle for her, and allow her to rejoice in the working model. The second was a more involved approach, and wouldn’t be as easy. The alternative involved having young Shartaya pick up the pieces she threw and sit down with me while I asked her questions leading her to discover the solution on her own. Enjoying a challenge, I chose the more complicated of the two options. The feeling I received from watching Shartaya rejoice in her own solution to her perplexing predicament left me second-guessing my future career goals in my second-to-last year at the University of Pittsburgh.

Never in my wildest dreams, or nightmares for that matter, had I contemplated teaching as a career choice. Even through high school while tutoring friends and teammates, hearing my mother exclaim that my path had already been laid out as a teacher, I refused to listen. Even while studying Neuroscience (my intended life’s goal), yet not feeling particularly attracted to the research labs that appeared to be calling my classmates away, I refused to see the obvious signs. How could I return to the ruthless high school environment after all the years spent watching other students harass and belittle teachers, supposedly working on their most important life skill: insubordination? After my brief encounter with Shartaya it seemed I never even had a choice. My remaining year at Pitt was spent finishing my Biological Sciences degree, then taking the prerequisite courses needed to apply for the rigorous Master of Arts Teaching graduate program at Pitt. “I told you so,” was the only statement my mother uttered. My time as a Masters student was funded through Federal Student Aid Stafford loans and a couple of award-based grants that I received for showing promise in my future career.

Looking back, Shartaya taught me that if I’m patient and creative enough my students will extract life-long lessons: comprehension that isn’t provided in a textbook. She led me to become addicted to inspiring people so that they too may become addicted to learning.”

To hear more from Nick about his experience in the classroom, and about why our students need strong male role models, check out:

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