Weslee Cheung Vann, Elementary School Teacher, Vancouver Public Schools

A Safe Haven

Do you remember the moment when you decided you wanted to become an educator?

I remember that I always wanted to be able to make a difference in the lives of others; however, I received a lot of pressure from my family to pursue a career that would ensure financial stability. I thought I wanted to be a lawyer for the longest time because I felt that it would give me the opportunity to help others while satisfying the hopes and dreams my family had for me. My interest in that career path changed when I began volunteering in a classroom. I remember telling myself, what better way to make a difference than to be able to help others become who and what they want to be.

You are an Elementary Teacher. How rewarding is that?

I teach students who come to me with lack of sleep, hungry bellies, and emotional distress from things going on at home. Some days I spend more time reinforcing expectations and building relationships than I do on academics. For these students, school is their safe place. I find that the most rewarding experiences I have being a teacher have always had a connection to the personal relationships I build with my students. My bond with my students helps build confidence in their learning and their ambition to succeed. When I see their faces light up when they recognize their own potential is what is most rewarding for me.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

My inspiration comes from people all around me. I am so lucky to have amazing friends and colleagues that have so much passion for education. Even those who I know who are not in the field put 100% into whatever they do hoping that their kindness and efforts are in someway helping and/or supporting others is what inspires me most.

How important is a good support system?

An amazing support system is what keeps me sane and going everyday! Often there is so much negativity towards teachers that you can feel as though no matter what you do it will never be enough. There are many times where my students and families have come before my own children and family. I have felt bullied and to blame for the choices or lack of success of my students. Surrounding myself with people who understand the challenge of my job and the sacrifices I make for my students is very important.

What advice would you give women who are interested in entering the education system?

I would say that you have to have your heart in it. You are responsible for the future of our society and the next leaders of our nation. I feel that often people look at my job and think "Teaching looks fun." It definitely can be, but there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes.

You have been in the field for a long time, what are some lessons learned?

Be organized. My students thrive on a consistent routine.

Classroom management is key. If your students won't follow your directions, they are not going to learn from you.

Build strong relationships. You mean the world to your students and they look up to you. If they know you truly care about them, they would do just about anything for you.

What are a few of your favorite must-haves?

A fancy large tote to shove everything you could possibility need for anything that could possibly happen (I am a mama of two), snacks and water (again mama of two, hehe), and although I have to leave the house to get it... A hot Soy Chai Latte. I'm addicted.