Master of Arts in Teaching Single Subject Candidate Jonathan Lee has been awarded the 2017-2018 Mary Roosevelt Honor Scholarship in Teaching and Learning, presented by Mrs. Mary Roosevelt on November 7, 2017.
About Jonathan Lee
Growing up, I never really appreciated the value of education, nor of the advantages and opportunities that it would provide me throughout my life. By the time I graduated from high school and began my college career, I had grown disillusioned with the path laid out before me. As far as I was concerned, the only thing an education was good for was to help me get a boring job and an unsatisfying career. My professional experience did nothing to disabuse me of this notion, as I drifted aimlessly from field to field, from food services to real estate to law to film production.
Eventually – and fortuitously – I was offered a position at an English immersion school in Gumi, South Korea. Seeing an opportunity to travel and experience living in a foreign country, I eagerly accepted. It was a spur of the moment decision, with no more than two weeks elapsing between the offer and my arrival in Gumi. I had no idea what to expect. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. And I had no idea how transformative the experience would be.
At the school, though I was teaching students of different ages and grades, the students were all working towards the same goal – preparing for and earning acceptance into college in the United States. They mostly came from the rural outskirts of the city, their families scraping together what they could to send their children to the school, believing that an American degree would help them achieve better futures. Some students came to the school fulltime, while others came to afterschool classes in addition to their normal public schooling. I saw how my students dedicated their waking hours to their schooling, attempting to gain even a small chance at attaining opportunities that I had failed to appreciate, that I had squandered. Working with those students, I recognized a feeling that I had not experienced for a long time – hope. These students were driven by it. They were consumed by it. And I couldn’t help but be affected by it. It inspired me, and I pushed myself to help them nurture that hope. To pursue it. To achieve it.
And it was fun.
I had found a path that was not only enjoyable and rewarding, but important. Significant. Unquestionably worthwhile. When I returned to the US, I immediately resumed my own education, this time with drive and focus. I earned a bachelor’s degree in history and earned acceptance into the UCI MAT program. I was going to become a teacher. I was going to make sure that I would reach out to every student that I possibly could and help them not only see the value of education, but to realize its benefits and to lead impactful and fulfilling lives.
Education encourages people to do better and to be better. It encourages them to strive for a better world, while equipping them with the tools to achieve that goal. In my future career as a teacher, I hope to instill this kind of passion for learning and personal growth in my students. I hope to use the skills and knowledge that I have at my disposal to help students effect positive change in their lives and in their communities. History teachers are supposed to help students analyze and interpret the past so they can make sense of the present and hopefully forge better futures. I hope to help all my students do so.