“A ‘vocation’ is defined as a strong feeling of suitability for a particular career or occupation, whereas a ‘profession’ is a paid occupation,” according to Pam Walsh, retired Perkiomen Valley High School mathematics teacher and keynote speaker at an Oct. 20 Vocational Discernment Dinner and Discussion. Second in a series of six monthly talks, the discussions are designed to begin a dialogue about career paths among Ursinus students.
During her talk, Walsh described her teaching career as a “calling,” saying she knew at a young age that she wanted to teach. She learned different approaches to teaching by observing her own teachers growing up that she emulated in her own classroom decades later. It was her 10th grade geometry teacher that inspired Walsh to pursue a career teaching math. “My teacher used to say there was beauty in mathematics. I didn’t understand what she meant until years later, but her passion and enthusiasm had me hooked.”
When asked what about her biggest career challenge, Walsh talked about becoming a widow with two young children. “It was a reminder to appreciate life and the people you love every chance you get,” she said. “Years later, I was able to use my own tragedy to connect with a group of behaviorally challenging students that had suddenly lost a friend in a car accident. My own experience brought me closer to them—we spent a whole class talking about grief. After that, their behavior seemed to improve.”
Walsh stressed the importance of interpersonal skills for aspiring teachers. “They’re a must—as a teacher, you’ll be interacting with hundreds of students, teachers, parents and colleagues. In addition to knowing your subject-matter, teachers should be kind, empathetic, patient and passionate about teaching.”
“These discussions are a reminder that I should follow my passions,” said junior Kelly Johnson, an event co-organizer. “At the last talk, philosophy professor Kelly Sorensen stressed the importance of being true to yourself in order to have a great life—that really stuck with me.”
Next month’s discussion on November 10th features Ursinus assistant professor of computer science Akshaye Dhawan. For more information and to RSVP, email chaplain Charles Rice at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Vocational Discernment Dinner and Discussion series is made possible by a grant from the Lilly Foundation.