By Josie Harris
Psychology and US history teacher Mrs. Sarah Coffman didn’t always want to be a teacher.
“My mom and dad have told me my whole life that I should be a teacher, and I didn’t listen to them,” Coffman said.
She first tried to become a psychologist. Working her way through college, Coffman said she did not have time to get an internship, preventing her from getting into graduate school. However, the years Coffman spent studying psychology were not a waste, because it is now one of the 11 subjects that she is certified in.
Coffman soon found herself managing customer service.
“I was very frustrated with the fact that I wasn’t able to actually help people,” Coffman said. “I felt like I was worthless in that position.”
Unhappy with her current career, Coffman then decided to become a teacher, and went back to college to get her master’s degree. Coffman said that at her church she had done a lot of work with youth, particularly teenagers.
“I found myself missing [that] more and more all the time,” Coffman said.
That is when she decided that she wanted to teach teenagers.
Coffman now says she likes teaching because every day is different.
“Every day I get to help at least one student accomplish a goal, and learn something, and help them to think about something in a different way, and that is completely why I do it,” Coffman said.
Coffman says that seeing her students succeed makes all the effort she puts into her job completely worthwhile, and that this is without a doubt what she was meant to do.
Why Teach History?
In college, Coffman was still uncertain what she wanted to teach in, but decided on history one class into her master’s degree. The question that helped her determine her answer she said came from one of her professors and was, “What do you like to learn about?”
History was Coffman’s favorite subject in high school, and is something that she’s always had a passion for.
“You have to have a passion for [what you are teaching.]” Coffman said. “If you’re not interested in it, it becomes a chore.”
Coffman says that she particularly enjoys teaching modern history, because students find it more relatable, and in turn realize that history has a great impact on their lives and the modern world.
“Once we start reading about how the middle-east came about because of World War II, students start thinking ‘Maybe I need to learn more about WWII,’” Coffman said.
Coffman says that learning history helps students understand why the modern world is the way it is, and that today is a result of yesterday.
Learning history also helps students to live as individuals, Coffman says.
Why Teach Psychology?
“Psychology is so much fun,” Coffman said.
Coffman says that psychology is interesting because it is constantly changing, and discoveries are being made everyday“We make so many improvements every day in our knowledge base,” Coffman said.
She says being able to incorporate these discoveries into the class makes it more relevant to psychology, and more interesting for the student.
Coffman says the most rewarding part of teaching psychology is seeing students apply what they learn to their lives.
“I have a student and they just look at me and they’re like ‘That’s why I do that,’ or ‘That explains so much,’” Coffman said.
Psychology studies the mind and behavior, and Coffman says another rewarding aspect of teaching this class is when students realize that there is a reason why a person behaves a certain way.
She says this is how she knows that her students are actually learning.
“That helps [me realize] that they are actually learning, and they are taking what I say to heart, they’re paying attention to it and using it,” Coffman said.