WRITTEN BY MICHELLE DZISIAK • 3 min

Michelle is a Marketing Specialist with a background as a classroom teacher.

Each month we’re celebrating a student from our Teacher Certification Program who embodies our mission of creating a world where every student has the chance to experience the power of a great teacher. This month we’re paying homage to teachers who aren’t afraid to jump in with two feet, dig deeper on a concept to bring about authentic learning, and do it all with patience, flexibility, and excellent time management.

For that reason, we’re putting the spotlight on a recent graduate of Teach Away’s Teacher Certification Program, Jordan Cerra. She’s had a whirlwind experience with teaching as, after only three weeks of clinical placement, she was transferred into a long-term substitute teaching position. Jordan leaned on her time management skills and kept her future goals in mind as she persevered through the Teacher Certification Program, all while juggling her responsibilities with work and caring for her son. Jordan’s passion for developing connections with her students and desire to create authentic learning experiences is one of many reasons we are proud to showcase her this month!

“This program is really good, the lessons are cutting edge, progressive, and require you to really think. It doesn’t ask you to fit into a perfect teacher box, it prepares you to be the unique teacher you are meant to be for the diverse and transforming classrooms in today’s world.”

Let’s dive in to hear about Jordan’s experience with Teach Away’s Teacher Certification Program and her adventures in the world of teaching!

1. What drew you to pursue a teaching career? Was this a lifelong dream or a new interest?

Becoming a teacher happened very organically. I was raised by teachers but pursued other things after college. I’ve also been busy as a single mom for the last ten years. Being a part of my son’s school community has brought me so much satisfaction. His principal sponsored me to become a substitute teacher after seeing me volunteer in the classroom to teach yoga and forming relationships at the school with kids and staff. I value public education so much and love being around the kids, as they really are the future. I’m a big nerd and love to learn new things. I am passionate about inspiring my students to keep thinking, keep going deeper, and question everything.

2. Why did you decide to take an alternative route to become a licensed teacher instead of the traditional education path? 

I really wanted to take a traditional educational path and get my master’s through UH, but when COVID happened and everything went online anyway, there was no longer any reason to wait. I was unable to work because my son was home doing distance learning during COVID. I worried and worried about what to do or what would happen when it was over. None of my jobs were able to be done from home. I knew I had to use the time wisely so I decided to start the Teach Away Teacher Certification Program. It was forward planning for the ’21-’22 school year. I knew nothing would be the same and I needed to think fast so I could come out of this thing alive! I had talked with reps from Teach Away right before COVID, at the It’s Great to be a Teacher Event at Leeward College. I knew it was the right thing to do, everything in my universe was pointing me in their direction. It was my saving grace in a time of great uncertainty.

3. Has your alternate route to certification been manageable while juggling your other responsibilities? 

It has been a challenge but it’s manageable. It was six months of hustle and grind. I stocked my freezer with frozen food and I barely left my house. I was lucky, in a sense, that I got to be home for the first half. When I returned to work, after work was over, it was work again. My son had to get used to reading A LOT. It was good for us both in a lot of ways. We had to step up our games to accommodate for the program, but in the end, it’s 100% worth it.

4. What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned so far? 

There’s a TED Talk I watched, where a woman said that if you’re just replacing something with tech and not innovating, then it’s pointless. For example, if you’re just replacing writing essays with pen and paper, with writing them on a word processor, you’re not really evolving. We need to innovate and use technology in more creative ways. Along with that goes using the technology to put the learning in the hands of the students. This brings in concepts like the flipped classroom, which was a method I used at the end of the quarter. It helped me so much when my students were in and out of the classroom for testing and needing time to make up work. It allowed me to package a lesson or project for students to use at the right time for them. Having students reflect on their work was a part of that process that I also found very valuable. 

5. Was there a teacher in your life who inspired you? If so, who was it and what impact did they have on you? 

I was fortunate enough to have a favorite teaching couple; my second-grade teacher, Ronnie, taught me to love reading. Her husband, Frank, was my high school English and Composition teacher. He taught me how to think deeply about a text, always encouraged me to keep digging, and held me to high expectations. He never let me settle. These teachers clearly wanted their students to engage in authentic learning and every single day was a new opportunity to teach us important skills for lifelong learning. The way they showed up each day was so inspiring.

6. What area of teaching do you specialize in? Why did you choose it?

My certification is in secondary English. Reading, reading comprehension, and thoughtful use of language opens the doors to so many opportunities. 

7. Are you currently working in a teaching capacity? If so, could you tell us a little bit about your experience teaching so far? 

Three weeks after starting my student teaching assignment for 6th grade English, (clinical placement) I transferred into a long-term subbing assignment (while fulfilling all my C.P. requirements) to teach the full fourth quarter for 7th grade English. It felt a bit overwhelming; I went from essentially training under a teacher with a plan to running my own classroom from scratch. I learned so much by just doing it. I learned that planning takes practice. It’s not going to be perfect the first time, but with fine-tuning, I’m becoming more and more of an effective educator. Patience and flexibility!

8. What is your favorite thing about working with students?

I love when the students surprise me with an amazing interpretation or insight into a poem or book we’re covering. I love to hear how their minds think, where their thoughts go, and what they desire to learn. I am looking forward to getting to know the students on an authentic level at the beginning of the year so that I can shape my curriculum around things that interest them. I want to surprise them with lessons they will truly enjoy.

9. What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about getting certified to teach? 

Get involved in the school system. If you can, take some time to be an EA or a substitute teacher. Understanding the system a little bit before jumping right in can take a lot of the mystery out of it all. Talk to teachers if you know any and brush up on your content area by doing a little research and getting familiar with the common core standards and other teachers’ lesson plans. Take the time to plan out your schedules if you’re working and going to school. Planning down to the hour might sound crazy, but it’s necessary. I wish I didn’t wait so long to get a grip on my time management.

10. Are there any final notes, thoughts, or comments you’d like to add?

I’ve already done a Professional Development day with my school and it was basically a lesson straight out of a Teach Away module. I was laughing to myself because we spent six hours learning about something I already deep dove into with Teach Away. This program is really good, the lessons are cutting edge, progressive, and require you to really think. It doesn’t ask you to fit into a perfect teacher box, it prepares you to be the unique teacher you are meant to be for the diverse and transforming classrooms in today’s world.

Are you thinking about becoming a teacher or making a career change?

Start your teaching career and find teaching jobs with Klassroom. Learn more about our online teacher certification program and become a teacher today!