Steps to Being a Role Model


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When I was in 5th grade, my teacher gave us an optional assignment as part of an in-class contest: Why would you want to become a teacher? I don’t remember my exact response, but it landed me the opportunity to teach a math lesson to my peers. In short, it sucked. I did a horrible job, but this didn’t stop me from wanting to be a teacher.  As long as it meant not teaching math…

And while in high school, my interest in one day being a teacher grew when I met my educational role model, my English teacher Mrs. Gold.

I graduated from college in December 2002. At that time, I was assistant superintendent at a golf course. This was a job I enjoyed because I got to oversee a staff while spending time outdoors. I planned to stay at this job; however, just a month after earning my bachelor’s degree, some administrative changes led to me having to find a new job. I remembered my childhood dream of being an educator and my role model at my high school, and I decided to become a substitute teacher. Shortly after, I was offered a temporary teaching job at a middle and high school behavioral center for students who were removed from their home schools. Admittedly, I had no clue what I was doing, but I enjoyed connecting with these kids, many of whom came from troubled homes and under-privileged communities.

Carrie and I planned to move back to South Florida {we lived in Orlando then} at the end of the school year, so I applied for a teaching job back home. And not only did I get a teaching job, but I landed a position as an English teacher at my alma mater, teaching alongside my high school role model. Between her and another mentor teacher, within just 2 years, I was teaching Advanced Placement English, which was my dream teaching job back then. {Insert awkward high school graduation photo with my brother Scott.}

When I first found out I was teaching at my old high school, I was elated to tell my family. My mom and brother would be so excited for me, right? Here’s how the conversation went.

Me: I got a job teaching at Piper.

Scott (brother): Wonderful! What are you going to do about your acne?

…um, what? Scott tends to notice superficial qualities others may not, but he had a point. If I was going to lead a classroom, I had to look more mature than the students in my class. I was only 25, not significantly older than my students, but I had to stand out as their mentor. First step was to dress well.

Dress the part: Yup, that was me in my old classroom. While other teachers thought it was okay to wear cargo shorts and a polo, that just didn’t work for me. At minimum, I wore a button-down shirt, tie, nice pants, and dress shoes. On a special day? Suit up!

Stay well-groomed: Being well-groomed is also important. I keep my facial hair short and get haircuts as often as possible. This helps me to present myself as a professional within my community.

Be a confident leader: Back to my job at Piper High… What I learned over time was that the students really looked up to me, the way I looked up to my role model back in high school. It occurred to me, then, that they respected me for the way I taught them far more than what I taught them.  I’ve had many students reach out to me over the years to tell me that I inspired them to become teachers as well, but few could remember specific lessons I taught them or even books we read or essays they wrote.  What my students remembered is how I treated them, how I carried myself as a professional, and how I always sought to help them in any way I conceivably could.

Last January, after teaching high school English for 11.5 years, I began a new job. I am now Curriculum Facilitator for the Career Technical Adult and Community Education department (shortened to CTACE). In this role, I provide support to career-pathway teachers, lead professional developments, and assist students in earning industry certifications. Basically, I am in the office twice a week, and I travel to different locations to meet with other educational and community leaders locally and sometimes out-of-town. And as important as it was to be a professional leader within my school previously, it may be even more important now that I am present throughout the entire community. I mean… I got to meet Colin Powell. Glad I had on a button-down shirt and a good haircut.

And of course, there’s one place where it’s even more important to be a role model… and that’s at home. I try to teach my children to believe in themselves, to challenge themselves, to be brave when they are scared, to ask for help when needed, and to feel confident. I’m still working on the confidence part so I can be their role model. I want to show them how to get a professional look when they are older. To recap, here are my steps:

  1. Dress the part. As an educator, it was always my job to be a role model to my students. I dressed professionally daily to encourage them to do the same as they embarked on their career paths.
  2. Stay well-groomed. Keep your hair and facial hair an appropriate length based on your profession.
  3. Be a confident leader. To inspire others, both professionally and personally, it’s so important to feel confident. Know your value to your community and at home.
  4. Take care of your skin. Whether you have acne or the occasional blemishes, use quality products to treat your skin daily.

So back to my brother Scott and his acne comment. I thought acne was a problem I’d have just in middle school, maybe high school. But college came, and the acne stayed. And adulthood and a career and children came, and the acne stayed. I’m 38 years old now, and I still struggle to find ways to manage it {cue embarrassing close-up}.
But I may have found a way to clear breakouts: Differin® Gel. New Differin® Gel is the first and only prescription strength retinoid now available over the counter for clearing and preventing acne. It’s the newest advancement and ingredient in the OTC acne category in over 30 years! It clears breakouts where they start (deep in the pores), prevents breakouts before they begin, and as a result, restores skin’s texture and tone. This sounds like exactly what I need, so I’m giving it a try, and I will check back in with results!

I purchased Differin® Gel at Walmart, down the skincare aisle. Differin® Gel is not used in the same way as a spot treatment. In order to get the best results, you should apply a thin layer all over the face, once a day, every day. Please use caution when using Differin® Gel with more than one acne treatment or glycolic acid product because this could lead to irritation.

I look forward to seeing how well it works with my skin.

What can you do to be a role model at home and within your community?

This product is dermatologist developed and tested. Please call 1-866-735-4137 for any questions you may have concerning the product. However, should you experience any problems while using the product, please discontinue use and consult your healthcare provider.

About Richard Wells

Richard Wells is an English teacher, husband, and father of two young children who lives in South Florida.

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One Response to Steps to Being a Role Model

  1. With my husband as a schoolteacher, I can totally relate to your tips. Definitely a good fit, and I can’t wait to see how Differin Gel works for you! #client

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