January 26, 2022 | Michelle Dzisiak
This month we are excited to shine a spotlight on Matyas. Matyas is a successful graduate of the state-approved, AAQEP-accredited Teacher Certification Program in Hawai’i.
Prior to teaching, Matyas was a military service member. As a transitioning service member, he sought out an alternative certification program that could help him get licensed in a short period of time. Taking an alternative teacher certification program allowed Matyas to simultaneously complete his online coursework and work as an emergency hire, allowing him to complete the entire Teacher Certification Program in just 6 months.
Today, Matyas has a rewarding career as a teacher. He teaches is a successful Science and Computer Science at a public middle school on the island of Oahu.
"I always knew that I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself. At one point I thought that longing would be fulfilled by a career in the military, but after leaving that life I’ve found much greater fulfillment in my work as a teacher."
Let’s dive in to hear about Matyas’ experience with the Teacher Certification Program in Hawai’i and how it helped him pursue his dream career in just 6 months.
What drew you to pursue a career in teaching? Was this a lifelong dream or a new interest?
It was a new interest. I can actually remember a time not that long ago – well I guess it’s been 15 years now, haha, I’m getting old – when I said I would hate to be a teacher; especially a middle school teacher.
Yet I always knew that I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself.
At one point I thought that longing would be fulfilled by a career in the military, but after leaving that life I’ve found much greater fulfillment in my work as a teacher.
I love going to work every day and working with the kids at my school.
Why did you decide to take an alternative route to become a licensed teacher instead of the traditional education path?
It was faster, and I could do it from home. I have friends that went through the teacher certification program that the University of Hawai’i offers, but that involved 2 years of going to many in-person classes at the UH campus.
I was able to earn an equivalent certification in a fraction of that time.
Has your alternate route to certification been manageable while juggling your other responsibilities?
It was difficult, for sure. Because I was working as an emergency hire at my school while earning my certification, I didn’t have any weekends to myself for a good 3-4 months.
However, it was an amazing feeling when I finally got through that period. I was more excited to get my certificate than I had been when I originally graduated from college with my bachelor’s degree.
What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned so far?
Teaching is about making personal connections. You can be an expert in content, but if you don’t know how to connect with kids they won’t learn from you.
As part of the Teacher Certification Program curriculum, I remember watching the TED talk by the late Rita Pierson, in which she said, “kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.”
It seemed sort of trivial at the time, but now that I’ve got a couple of years of experience, I can really understand the significance of that statement.
Was there a teacher in your life who inspired you?
I homeschooled essentially all the way up until college, but I’ve had a few exceptional teachers as I progressed through my bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
Yet, the most influential teacher in my life didn’t work in a school. He was an elderly man who used to work in the Apollo space program. I used to go to his house once a week, and there he introduced me to a wide variety of science and engineering-related topics.
As I look back now, I can identify him as being the single most influential factor in my becoming a Science and Computer Science teacher today. I strive to teach my students with the same enthusiasm with which he taught me.
What area of teaching are you specializing in? Why did you choose it?
Science. And this year I’m filling in a vacancy in the Computer Science department at my school.
I want to be able to share some of the passion for those subjects that the elderly man instilled in me as a young teen.
Are you currently working in a teaching capacity? If so, could you tell us a little bit about your experience teaching so far?
Yes. I’m a middle school Science and Computer Science teacher at a public middle school on the island of Oahu. It’s the best job that I’ve had so far in my 35 years.
There’s nothing better than what my fellow teacher calls the “teacher high,” when you know you taught something well, and you saw a student’s light bulb go on in an ‘aha moment’.
What is your favorite thing about working with students and/or what is the thing that you’re most looking forward to when you are in a classroom?
Seeing that ‘aha moment,’ Good test scores and grades amongst your students are also nice to see, but none of it compares to witnessing a student gaining a key piece of knowledge and understanding in that very personal and memorable way.
It’s also fun to listen to the banter between students. When they are comfortable with you, they’ll tell you all kinds of things, often very funny.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about getting certified to teach?
It’s not for everyone. You need to feel the passion for working with kids. I’ve seen a few people finish teaching programs, but then lose hope when their students ‘failed’ to absorb the knowledge that the teacher was trying to push on them.
Although school is about learning things, there is so much more to education than learning a list of facts that someone decided should make up a curriculum.
Many times, the hardest part of what we do is getting kids to understand and appreciate that what they are learning in the artificial environment of school is actually connected to the real world around them.
A key, and difficult, part of making that happen is being a ‘real’ person and building a ‘real’ connection with as many of them as possible. I’ve found that when they make that connection with you, they are able to make connections with the material that you are teaching too.
Are there any final notes, thoughts, or comments you’d like to add?
Becoming a good teacher is a never-ending process. A program like TCP is a great place to start, and I’m ever so thankful that I started there, but it’s just a starting point.
Once the training wheels come off, and you start teaching day in and day out, you are constantly learning new, and sometimes difficult lessons.
But that’s part of what makes it such a great career choice.