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Janice Cawthorn

Interview by Uriah Young



QFTD: What made you want to become an educator?


Janice: I took a class to become an instructional aide in kindergarten.  I couldn’t learn enough fast enough to satisfy my thirst for knowledge about children and how they learn.  So I entered the undergraduate program at Hampton Institute.  There I met many wonderful and inspiring educators who taught me things I wanted to know.  There were many new and innovative things happening at that point in time.  I could not get the information fast enough to suit me!!!  And I was meeting wonderful, excited children in addition to my classes.  I fell in love with five-year-olds first and then with three-year-olds. I am still in love with them!


QFTD: You made major contributions to Hampton University's education department by being open to the shifting trends in education. Why is it important to have this approach? 


Janice: My observation is that education as a whole is very slow to move into unknown territory, such as computers in classrooms, as a recent example.  Many people tell teachers to learn from the children, and indeed that is what many of us must do.  If we are to truly meet the children’s needs (of any age along the life continuum), we must be flexible and eager to learn new ideas and technologies.  Of course, we all know that a pencil was a new technology at one time!!!! LOL  


As a teacher of future teachers, I believed that is was my responsibility to stay on top of the trends and introduce innovations to my students.  Being open to the changes and innovations that occur almost daily (hourly) helps to keep children interested in learning.  Children often ask the question “Why do I have to learn that?  I will not ever use it again.”  I believe that is a valid question and one that teachers must be ready to answer.  And the best way to be ready is to make the connections between the past, the present and the future.  Teachers must be learners first and foremost!  Only a dedicated learner can become an inspiring teacher, I think. 


QFTD: What else, besides education, are you passionate about? 


Janice: Children, children and children!  I also love growing things.  Everything from children to vegetables!  I particularly like to grow flowers and to have all the insects andcritters around me. I have plants inside my home and in my yard.  And then there are the fast cars!  Oh how I love fast cars, driving and riding in them!  And butterflies!  They are such a beautiful example of change and innovation as they evolve from that tiny black dot into the gorgeous creatures of many colors.  As a general idea, I love the natural world and all its differences and similarities.  It never disappoints my curiosity and my passion of learning more about it.


QFTD: What are you doing with yourself these days?


Janice: Since I have retired, I am working with my plants inside and out and watching my cats.  I also do some volunteer work such as driving seniors to their doctors’ appointments and to the grocery store.  Recently, I wrote a couple of grants and helped a friend with a community survey.  The survey was to help identify possible service learning placements for college students.  I also enjoy keeping up with my former students and my grandchildren.  I have considered my students to be part of my family and really am pleased with all the wonderful things you guys are doing.


QFTD: Looking back on your career, what are you most proud of?


Janice: I am proudest of my students and my children and their accomplishments.  I have even kept up with some of my kindergarten students from the first year of teaching.  I enjoy hearing and seeing the growth and changes that each of you have experienced.  And I am pleased to have had the opportunity to work with so many students from all parts of the world and from all disciplines.  


QFTD: What advice do you have for anyone who desires to become teacher?


Janice: I have a couple of things that I would say to people who plan to become teachers.  The first is to love the students you teach without reservation or judgment.  Honor and respect them and their humanity and their hunger to learn.  Your interactions with them will have profound meanings, ones that you may never know. The second thing is that teachers must always remember that they are teaching human beings and not a subject.  It is important to love what you do but most important to love those people you teach. And finally, remain flexible and passionate about learning as well as teaching.



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