Passion, Perseverance, and Purpose: How Wanderlust Fueled One GATE Teacher's Journey

Passion, Perseverance, and Purpose: How Wanderlust Fueled One GATE Teacher's Journey

Jennifer L. Waldron (Ashley River Creative Arts, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5879-8.ch004
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This chapter is about a multicultural GATE teacher, Jennifer Waldron, and her circuitous journey on becoming the educator that she is today. Having lived on three continents by the age of 13, she struggled with cultural identity exacerbated by the inevitable awkwardness that accompanies key developmental junctures. Central to this piece are acculturation, assimilation, self-determination and self-efficacy, and learning to manage the awareness of belonging nowhere, yet everywhere at once. This is an educational journey of finding, appreciating, and using one's strengths and growth mindset in the pursuit of re-educating oneself to become a more empowered person and educator. This chapter underscores the relevance of cultural competency and the need for tolerance of difference at all levels of education. Jennifer Waldron embraces research based and innovative approaches to thinking and learning. She strives to break down barriers through design and creative thinking so as to find relevant connections between seemingly disparate subjects.
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Becoming a teacher was the last profession Jennifer Waldron ever wanted to consider despite (or on account of) her multigenerational educator family background. Her parents, grandparents and great grandparents taught and even owned and managed a school of their own. Schools, however, had not initially been welcoming places for Jennifer. After all, she was a visual learner and typically, and correspondingly, a late bloomer. For this reason, she often felt both overlooked and ignored in the classroom. Having lived on three continents by the age of thirteen, Jennifer struggled with cultural identity exacerbated by the inevitable awkwardness that accompanies key developmental junctures. Part of her unseen self-education involved acclimatizing herself to undefined and unfamiliar sets of cultural and intellectual norms. In this way, acculturation became her subliminal focus and it spurned more than a decade’s worth of travel that was more about self-discovery than the physical places she immersed herself in.

After graduating college, Jennifer gave in to her nonconformist inclinations and embarked upon a journey that took her far enough away from all that was familiar to her in order to challenge her sense of self in the world. While her friends were securing internships and employment she was preoccupied with which country to call home. Through self-determination and self-efficacy, she learned to manage the awareness of belonging nowhere, yet everywhere at once and, therefore, inhabit a space without a country to call home. After years of seeking, living, studying and working in Europe, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Fiji among other places, she become a naturalized citizen of the United States, eventually making her adopted country her home.

With her cultural milieu resolved she turned her intensity of focus, passion and idealism towards her career. It was not until her late twenties that she finally entered the field of education, embarking upon a unique Master of Education collaborative internship program in which she attended graduate school while working as a teacher in a Cambridge, Massachusetts private school. Embracing her ‘outsider’ status and combining it with her idealistic nature, Jennifer carved out a niche for herself in educational technology, a virtual frontier where she was well versed in creative and independent thinking, risk taking and embracing a growth mindset. Drawing upon her diverse life experiences and her continued commitment to personal growth, Jennifer continues to connect social and emotional learning with intellectual endeavors in both her professional and personal realms.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Growth Mindset: The belief that a person’s talents and abilities can be improved upon with consistent, sustained and targeted effort.

Townships: Rudimentary settlements of non-white people on the periphery of urban areas with basic housing and few amenities.

Soweto Riots: Protests and demonstrations led by school children in the township of Soweto against the forced use of the Afrikaans language in Black segregated schools.

Zulu: The largest ethnic group in South Africa with their own history, customs, and language.

Apartheid: A system of legislation that segregated people based upon race and ethnicity as seen in South Africa until democracy ushered in a new era in 1994.

Scratch: Object-oriented, block-based coding developed by the MIT Media Lab.

Boma: A man-made, circular, fort-like structure made from cut branches and used to enclose livestock.

Tokoloshe: A supernatural, mischievous, dwarf-like, evil spirit called upon by malevolent people to cause trouble for others.

MIT Media Lab: A research lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that integrates multiple subjects, such as technology, media, science, art, and design, through unconventional research approaches with the purpose to enhance the future through technology.

Game Reserve: A large area of land, a preserve, in Africa set aside for hunting or viewing of wildlife and where wild animals live and roam safely.

ISTE: The International Society of Technology in Education is a non-profit that supports the use of educational technology and standards for teaching and learning worldwide.

STEM: The blending and teaching of four disciplines—science, technology, engineering, and math—in an interdisciplinary and applied way.

Logo Programming: A math and logic-based, object-oriented programming developed by Seymour Papert, one of MIT’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory co-founders, who had worked with Jean Piaget.

STEAM: Where art as a discipline is added to the STEM equation, providing validity and focus through innovation, design, and creative thinking.

Jillaroo: A slang term for a young woman working to gain experience on a sheep or cattle station in Australia. The male version is Jackeroo.

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