Teacher Feature Q&A: Citrus Valley’s Stephen Howard talks about teaching life

By: Marshall Scott

Citrus Valley High Schools’ freshman English teacher, Stephen Howard answers 11 questions about himself and his years of teaching.  Howard has been teaching for 19 years, two of those 19 years spent at Citrus Valley.

Stephen Howard standing in his classroom where he teaches grade nine English at Citrus Valley High School. (Marshall Scott/ Ethic News Photo)

Q: What made you want to become a teacher?

“There was a point when I was in college and I felt like I could do more good trying to help educate people, to bring about positive change in the world as opposed to just me. That’s what kind of motivated me to become a teacher”

Q: What is one thing you wish you had known before teaching?

“I probably knew how much homework I would have going into teaching, I wished that I loved homework in high school, because teachers have lots of homework, and I didn’t like homework. I wish I had better prepared myself for all the homework that I have as a teacher.  It’s never ending”

Q: What made you want to teach highschoolers?

“I definitely didn’t want to teach middle school. I thought about [teaching for] colleges with older kids but then I thought “when you’re teaching college students, you’re limiting the interactions you have with students.” So I felt like high school would be a better fit for me so I focused on becoming a high school teacher”

Q: Is there a specific reason you wanted to teach English?

“English was my worst subject in highschool. I know how students don’t like English. I actually majored in English because I wanted to better myself as a person and improve on my deficiencies. The more I took English classes the more I started to realize just how important literature was to helping us to understand what it means to be human”

Q: In your opinion, what is the most frustrating part of teaching?

“The most frustrating part of teaching – here it’s a little different. Since I’ve been in California, I feel like I’m given the freedom to teach. I’m not burdened with [stuff like substituting without volunteering and entitled kids.] Back in Georgia we had lots of duties we would have to do. Here there’s a substitute – if they need someone to substitute for a class they ask for volunteers. Here I feel like I have a lot more freedom to be able to come to work, teach and go home. I’m much happier [in California]”

Q: If you weren’t a teacher what would you be?

“I was a farmer for a little while, I enjoyed that. It was like teaching in a way, you’re constantly learning new things everyday. I learn something new everyday in the classroom. In a classroom you learn about people, on a farm you learn about people, machines, equipment, something goes wrong everyday. In school something goes wrong everyday. I’m good at going with the flow, if something happens I don’t freak out. I can adjust”

Q: What subject is your favorite to teach in english?

“Probably the thing students hate the most, Shakesphear. I love poetry and we don’t have a lot of poetry in ninth grade literature”

Q: What would you consider to be the thing you dislike teaching the most?

“That society doesn’t truly appreciate the [teaching] that we do, though some people do. But it seems like the last couple years, all the kids are home, all the parents are like “Oh my god, go back to school, we love our teachers” and then COVID ends and all of a sudden “Oh no you can’t teach them this book, you can’t teach them this.” The whole back and forth with parents”

Q: Favorite thing to do outside of school?

“Fishing, specifically fly fishing and also traveling the world, that’s an easy one”

Q: Favorite thing about your students?

“The diversity of the kids. I have kids that like to draw, kids that like to write, kids that like to play sports. I can’t tell you how many ninth graders from last year still come by to see me. That makes [me] feel good”

Q: What would you say is your biggest pet peeve?

“Kids leaving trash in the classroom, it drives me crazy. Constantly having to go pick up water bottles and candy wrappers. Not throwing things in the trash, is one of my pet peeves in the classroom”

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