Ontario instructor knows she was born to teach
When you’ve wanted something all your life, it’s a little overwhelming when it finally happens. “I was driving when I got the call that I got the teaching position at SJVC,” says Erin Schlanger. “Tom (husband) was telling me, ‘You need to pull over,’ because I was crying, I was so happy.”
That was 8 years ago, and Erin’s career ideal continues – with a little flourish. She is both an instructor and librarian on the Ontario campus. “I am a roaming substitute teacher and work with students in the Library Learning Resource Center where I help them with research, resumes, and individually with their writing, grammar and communication skills,” says Erin. “I also plan graduations, take care of the textbook room and have worked the front desk.” Whew.
It doesn’t matter what room Erin occupies, she is always in teaching mode. “Teaching is number one,” she reiterates. “I like providing, finding information in any way, shape or form. I am the go-to person. If I don’t know the answer, I guarantee I will know the person who does and will help you find that out.”
Erin did not come by this calling casually. “My dad David taught for 30-plus years,” she says. “I remember that my dad was home with us a lot more than other kids’ dads, so I started to think about a career that would let me be home with family.”
Erin and Tom’s family includes Noah (11) and twins Natalie and Charlotte (9).
As it turns out, teaching went deeper than more at-home time for Erin. “I’ve always had the heart to teach – even if I didn’t get the summer breaks,” she laughs. “I’ve always been someone who likes to share ideas.” And what better place than the classroom. That’s where those ideas meet open minds. Except when they don’t.
“I will always make myself known…even if people aren’t listening,” says Erin. “Not by yelling,” she teases, “but with passion; with the drive or desire to help students learn. It’s something that creeps into people when they know that teachers care about them on a personal level.”
Erin learned this her junior year of high school by watching her English teacher, Mrs. Diaz. Erin found herself in Mrs. Diaz’s class after she dropped out of her Honors classes. “There was so much pressure to be at 100% that I didn’t have that energy anymore,” she says. “This class had a lot of slackers; students who didn’t strive, didn’t achieve. But these students, who you never thought would have succeeded, pushed for Mrs. Diaz. She brought something out in them. I watched her to see what she was doing that pulled out their desire to be a good student.”
She found the magic of that classroom. “It was her genuine care for each one of us,” says Erin. That impression has forever influenced Erin’s own teaching style.
“One of the hardest things for students is to get their thoughts out,” says Erin. “They’re terrified to put their thoughts down on paper for fear their opinions or thoughts could be wrong. I have them write journals, just a couple of sentences the first few days, then several paragraphs. It sets them free to know they won’t get into trouble for their thinking or for having the feelings they are expressing.”
Students feel Erin’s acceptance. “The objective is not so focused on subject, verb, agreement, but more on the story they have to tell and conveying their thoughts.”
Encouragement, acceptance, confidence. Powerful tools that can serve a lifetime of communication.
Erin is constantly building skills in her students that will serve them once they enter the workforce. “My learning goals for English class is for my students to become professional communicators: Reading, writing, speaking. I want them to walk out with confidence in what they know and what they understand so that they succeed in their careers.”
Erin is a vigilant teacher. “I can spot a tune-out,” she says. “That vacant stare is a good clue, and I will be spontaneous and bend things on the spot if I sense it might not be working for everybody. I make changes so that the desired outcome will happen for everybody.”
“Erin has always gone above and beyond the call of duty,” says Andria Mars, Construction Management instructor. “She has never stayed in the lines that define the job description. She may have a busy workload, but she always finds a way to squeeze in something special for the students.”
For Erin, teaching is as personal as it is professional. “There are little notes of encouragement all over my desk,” she smiles. “There’s one on my plant, ‘Don’t worry about tomorrow because God is already there.’” Her commitment is to help anyone placed in her path toward their own highest goals and achievements.
“I have a service heart, and I will do whatever I can, whenever I can,” she says.
Erin is well on her way to etching her name onto the hearts of students in the same way Mrs. Diaz did on hers. When you make it personal, you make it forever.