Connections Past Issues

Why I Teach


Ellen Contopidis, Ph.D.

Associate Professor in Inclusive Childhood Education

When my high school guidance counselor asked what I wanted to do, I responded, “Teach physical education to handicapped children.” Her response was “There is no such thing.” I politely replied, “There will be.” Five years later, my first official teaching position was in a residential school for children with developmental disabilities as a physical education teacher.

Over the years, I have taught ESL to kindergarten learners, all content areas to middle schoolers (my favorite), English to high schoolers, and assorted other subjects. I have taught in urban, suburban, and international schools. I have helped learners pre-school through graduate school to experience the joy of self-discovery.

Now, as a teacher educator, I want my learners to know that it is not just about the content, or the standards, or the test scores. Joy comes from identifying strengths and capitalizing on them, from appreciating and instilling an appreciation for difference, and from seeing the potential of their learners reached. Teaching, for me, has always been about sharing the joy: supporting and encouraging others to find joy and success is why I teach.