Confidence is a key variable in the field of education. Teachers must have confidence in their students, as well as their own teacher efficacy. Students must have confidence in their abilities to comprehend, learn and display their knowledge. Parents and guardians must have confidence in their children. While these are separate actions, they all rely on each other to guarantee the desired result. This result is a young learner that is confident, prepared and ready to leave grade school age and embark on either a higher learning institution or some other occupation. The reality is some students struggle and have tremendous issues in school. It is not because they are not smart, they just can not learn effectively in their particular learning environment. We all know that individuals, regardless of age, learn differently. One size does not fit all in education and my life experience displays this to perfection!
I grew up in a small suburb on Long Island, New York. As I progressed through my elementary school experience, I remember getting pulled out daily for remedial math and reading. I would always be with a small group of students (2-3) and we would have to sit in this very small room with a teacher and she would work one-on-one with us. This continued throughout my elementary years. It was very embarrassing.
In New York, when you go into Junior High you get to choose a language to take. I chose Spanish. When I reached high school, I continued Spanish, in addition to all of my “B” track courses. When I reached the 11th grade I opted into taking a few dual enrollment courses, like Sociology and Psychology. My parents told me I could handle it and I did. I thought these were very interesting, plus the teacher was funny and focused on building rapport with his students. I eventually graduated high school in 1995, a slightly above average student, with a few college credits and ready to embark on my college career, because that is what was expected from every student at my high school.
My undergraduate experience was one of uncertainty and a lack of focus, until mid-junior year when I started to only be interested in one type of course, History, which ended up being my major (minor in Spanish). To fast forward the story, I graduate from SUNY Albany in 1999 and in 2000 I moved down to Orlando, Florida and began my graduate degree in Secondary Social Science Education at The University of Central Florida. I was so interested in learning at this level, because the focus shifted from having to memorize facts and listen to a boring professor lecture, to having to be accountable for material and being able to intellectually discuss your ideas, share thoughts and collaborate with others. Once I graduated with my Masters, I got my first teaching job. I still wanted more…
It wasn’t until I started my Doctoral degree at The University of Central Florida in 2003, that I truly understood what my purpose is in life. I was sitting in one of my courses for my first doc semester and one of my Professors, who will remain nameless, told me that I had no business being in the class. I was told I was too young and I did not have enough experience in education. I almost decided against continuing the degree and withdrawing. I was very upset and it was at this point that I came to the realization that anything is possible, because my mom told me something that will always stick with me forever. She revealed something that proved that confidence, especially at the hands of a parent, is the most powerful.
At age 26, my mother told me that when I finished Elementary School, administration was going to continue my remedial track and not let me choose a language, like all of the other students. They told my mom that I would never be able to handle it, because I had such severe reading problems. She had confidence in me and made sure that I was put in the position to be successful and she forced them to allow me to proceed, just like all of the other students. I took Spanish throughout high school and minored in it at college!
This boost enabled me to progress through my doctoral program at UCF, maintain a state board member position for the Florida Association of Teacher Educators (FATE) and exist as President of Kappa Delta Pi (KDP), an International Honor Society in Education, for two years on our campus.
My life experiences, coupled with my ten years of teaching in the classroom, has propelled me to created something that exemplifies my knowledge, passion and drive for helping others be as successful as they desire to be. I am not the only young child who could not read and was casted aside. There are millions out there and unfortunately sometimes they do not have the teachers or parental figures that push them and maintain high levels of confidence in their abilities to be successful.
Students today struggle in school, not because they are not intelligent, it is because our school system is not always the most optimal environment for learning. All people, regardless of age, learn differently. My vision for The Learning Liaisons is to provide young learners, teachers and parents the necessary tools to grow confidence levels, exceed way past their expectations and live their life to the fullest.
Education does not stop at the school house doors. Everyone can make a difference!
Dr. Jason Ampel