Joanie Sears, teacher at Wildwood Elementary
PEF: What brings you the most joy about being an educator?
Sears: I love working with children. I feel incredibly lucky to do this work and guide these children as they learn about themselves as people. In addition to learning about their social and emotional selves, they learn to read, write stories, think critically, and mathematically. They learn to be a part of a community of learners, and I feel grateful to be their leader.
PEF: What do you find most challenging about being an educator?
Sears: I find the growing demands and lack of funding to be the most frustrating part of this work. Teachers are drawn to this work because they care deeply about children and teaching them to become kind, literate adults. The politics don’t always support this work with shared values.
PEF: What resources would you like more of for your students?
Sears: In terms of resources, I really appreciate how passionate our parent community is. Their fundraising efforts, staff luncheons, participation in parent club, school board, and volunteering shows me daily how much they care. I wish the state would better fund this work, so we didn’t have to make decisions based on money. I would love additional aide time in each classroom to support student learning. I would also love to see the library and tech jobs filled as a full-time position. I know these teachers are split between different sites and the demands on their work continue to increase.
PEF: What are your thoughts on the state of public school funding in California?
Sears: School funding in the state of California is wrong on so many levels. I find myself in the same position as so many of my colleagues, having to think about how to do the work of teaching while being able to afford to live in the East Bay. I have been a teacher for 23 years and love my job! Sadly, I am having to think deeply if I can continue this work on a full-time basis. I find myself having to consider alternative ways to earn a livable wage.
PEF: What is the most meaningful thing a student has ever said to you?
Sears: “I love you.”
PEF: What else do you think is important for people to know about your work?
Sears: The work done daily by educators is vital to our future. I feel so grateful to be a part of a school that cares so deeply for children. I wish everyone knew just how committed we are to the growth and well-being of all students. Being a teacher will always be something I feel proud of. I rest my head at the end of each day knowing I made the world a little bit better.