Finding a profession that promotes the satisfaction of possibly touching the future and influencing another person’s path in life creates a kind of utopia on earth. Teachers who have that love of learning, love of their students, and love of knowing their efforts were effective have the power to affect change and better the world. Many teachers innately have that passion for their job, and it is needed to enjoy the daily tackle of the diverse personalities, interests, backgrounds, and learning styles of a room full of squirrely elementary students.
Lindsey Cummins, a second-grade teacher and 12-year veteran of Village Elementary School, has found her place in the classroom. While beginning with an Associates Degree in art and teaching visual and performing arts at Village, she soon discovered that moving from class to class as the art teacher was not enough for her. She was surprised when she realized that the classroom was where she should be. “I was that kid who gave my siblings spelling tests before they could go in the backyard and play when I was little, so I feel like I was a born teacher, always meant to do it, but I’ve got the technical side of the art, and I, also, have the passion for it and the patience.”
Cummins sees the progress of her students as the gratification for her time as their teacher. “The best thing about being a teacher for me is seeing the growth that the students have within the year. It’s the rewarding piece. It’s where you see all of the effort come to fruition: to see where they started, and see where they end, and just being able to track that growth…. It’s really rewarding.”
She says she has succeeded with her students, “When their confidence rises, when they feel pretty good about where they are and what they’re doing. They want to try it themselves or show me what they’ve learned. That’s when I feel like I can kind of send them on their way to be independent.” She added that not only confidence but “space (to try it on their own) is usually the key to unlock that independence.”
Having enough time in the classroom to accomplish all the mandated requirements as well as all she wishes to do is an ever-present problem. Even with a long day, more time is needed. “There’s a lot to do and to feel like you’ve really gotten in depth and thorough. It’s just, how do you have the time to do it all? It’s a hurdle getting it all in.”
While art remains her favorite subject to teach, it is not an everyday focus in the classroom but a tool to use to supplement the learning. Art is one of the teaching methods, and it is integrated into many subjects during a week. Cummin has developed art curriculum units for the district “to integrate the arts with our language arts curriculum to deepen the students’ understanding of the curriculum.”
Several years ago, for a summer enrichment program, she wrote the theater curriculum. After taking additional training sessions, she began to integrate drama into the language arts program, also. “For example, one of our reading curriculum units is about different perspectives of characters, which is so easy to act out, and the children can see the different people in perspectives.”
Cummins was reared in a family in Davis, California, that knew the value of education. When she was younger, her father was a professor at Cal Poly and then at Chico state teaching business and math. “It was always about how you behave, how you do well in school, doing homework, getting tutors if need be…. I feel like I was raised in the house where school was really important. That probably always stuck with me.”
Being able to support herself was important, too. When she chose to be a teacher, her father reminded her that she would never make much money. Her response was “I think that’s where I’ll be happy.”
Her husband, Phillip Cummins, who graduated from Coronado High School, works in the district as a high school guidance counselor and the high school varsity baseball coach. In a teasing manner Cummins adds, “He got hired just three years ago, so I have a leg up on him. I kind of brag like I’m the breadwinner of the family, and I’m okay with that!”
For fun she likes to go on walks and enjoy the fresh air, and she still paints a bit when time allows. “Right now, I’m just in the thick of having two very little people. Kyson just turned 6, and Lily will be 2 in January, so they’re very little. If we go anywhere, it’s not for very long, and usually it’s not too far from home in case somebody has a meltdown.” Her family road trip last summer was planned around playgrounds. Although traveling is a favorite pastime, Cummins is content to wait a while for the children to grow up or for retirement.
Cummins admits she has a Type A personality. “I try really hard. It’s nice to know that people notice. If they say, ‘You have to do this,’ I’m going to do it, and so sometimes that rubs people wrong. They’re like, ‘but that might not be right or what they’re saying doesn’t make sense.’ It’s like my bosses told me to do something, I am going to do it as fast as I can.”
Her admiration for Village and the district is clear. “I think we’re pretty lucky here in Coronado. Not every district or school is perfect, but we have a lot of great features and qualities. I felt very taken care of, if that makes sense, last year with the COVID shutdown. It was very hard. It was triple the amount of work, so a lot of people were leaving. They couldn’t do our job requirements under the regulations and the amount of work and the extra stuff we had to do and have their own family. Our district stepped up and offered free childcare for us.” While she still had to have a nanny for Lily, the certified childcare for Tyson after his transitional kindergarten took much of the stress away. She felt the district wanted to help make the situation better, so the teachers could do their job. “Everything is very stressful still, but I feel very supported by not only the district office down there but also our administration.”
Cummins’ enthusiasm for her students, her attempt to accommodate each child’s learning skills, and her ability to provide the opportunities and activities for them to get better at their goals, added to her communication with the parents serve as a gold standard for a good teacher’ job description.