The Piedmont Education Foundation’s Giving Campaign is featuring an interview series to share the voices of the heroes in our midst – the dedicated educators who strive each day to help our children grow and develop. This “Voices” installment features thoughts from Rachna Dube, a first grade teacher at Havens Elementary.
PEF: What was your path to teaching?
Dube: Discovering wonderful children’s authors when my daughter was a young girl had a big role to play in my decision to become a teacher. I started at Havens soon after I got my teaching credential from Mills College in 2004. This is my 16th year here. I teach because I love being in the company of learners – I think of myself as less of a teacher and more of a learner.
PEF: What brings you the most joy about your work?
Dube: I feel most joyous when I have every child excited about what we are doing, but I feel the most gratification when I feel every single child is making progress. As teachers, we can’t allow anyone to be left behind while they were in our care. There is a reason why being a veteran teacher is a thing of joy and pride – It takes time to get better at what we do.
PEF: What do you find most challenging about being a teacher?
Dube: The reduction of support over the years has been very challenging because while you make it your greatest priority to serve every child, the tide seems to be against us. We used to have a lot more support for our students than we do today: more classroom aide time, occupational therapy for students who were struggling with fine and gross motor issues in primary grades, smaller class sizes. Teachers are juggling a lot of demands and it is easy to feel completely overwhelmed.
PEF: What is the most meaningful thing a student has ever said to you?
Dube: I think the most meaningful sentiment expressed is that I made a difference. Often at the end of a year when we sit in a circle and reflect on the year the thing I am most interested in knowing is if I excited someone – a student saying “I used to find reading hard, but now I love it.” Or a parent saying – “You gave my child a love of learning.” If I made a child believe in themselves when there was a doubt, or if I made them see themselves in a new way, there is nothing more meaningful to me than that.
PEF: What resources would you like more of for your students?
Dube: I would like to have more support in the classroom, such as smaller class sizes, occupational therapy and more classroom aide support, so more students can benefit from greater adult attention.
PEF: What are your thoughts on the state of public school funding in California?
Dube: It is a disaster. We need to completely overhaul state funding. Education should be a top priority for any country that wants a good future. Our young people are our future. Their education, their future, should be our number one priority. We need to fund education so every child gets a high-quality education to be a productive member of our society. Every child should have a chance to be the very best they can be. We need to give them the support they require for that.
PEF: PUSD has one of the lowest student/staff ratios in the Bay Area. How does this impact you?
Dube: PUSD is a great place to work because we definitely have more resources than many districts in the area. The Piedmont community raises money to fund programs and positions that most other districts aren’t able to. I think when you talk about the student/staff ratio, it goes beyond the classroom. I imagine other districts often do not have librarians, aides, counselors, or special education teachers in the way our district does. And not having that support can be a life and death consequence to a teacher’s career, the difference between continuing in our profession and getting burned out and quitting. As a teacher, I couldn’t be performing at this level without my colleagues carrying the weight that many teachers in other districts have to carry on their own shoulders.
PEF: How do you and your students benefit from access to libraries and librarians?
Dube: Our librarians support our curriculum and our kids in many ways – they get our kids excited about books, authors, topics, different genres, current affairs, inspiring leaders, and so much more. They cultivate and sustain that interest with books and technology. As teachers, we heavily depend on our librarians for supporting our teaching with a broad range of books and materials, whether it is for a writing unit, social studies or science, scary Halloween books, or teaching diversity. Our librarians are always there, always willing to grow and change with the needs of the times.
PEF: What else do you think is important for people to know about your work?
Dube: It is important for people to know that teachers are working very hard, and they are progressively taking on more responsibility. Every year it seems more is expected of teachers, while at the same time support keeps getting reduced. It is important for the community to know how critical it is that we put pressure on the state to change their ways, and how important it is that we continue to provide the resources for quality programs that impact the everyday lives of our kids.
The Giving Campaign is the PUSD’s largest annual fundraiser and provides a broad range of supports for our educators and our schools, including technology supports and resources, classroom aides, art and music, libraries, S.T.E.A.M. training, electives, A.P. classes, counselors, and supports for differentiation and educator salaries. To learn more about the Giving Campaign or to donate, please visit www.piedmontedfoundation.org/donate/