Vicki Newman's Learning Story


Perhaps an old story for some, but for me teachers changed my life… that is why I became one. Growing up in Appalachia, southeastern Ohio, small city, an African-American with a thirst for knowledge and more knowledge, that was me. No one in past generations had gone off to college, a high school education had never been earned but I was lucky because i was taught that education is power. It was instilled in me at an early age. I learned to read when I was four years old and I learned in a most unconventional way. Each morning I would find something in my grandmother’s kitchen to read. It started out with the milk carton and graduated to her old but precious cook books and her Bible. Reading became an intricate part of my morning routine. When I found a new word I would pronounce it over and over again and then want to learn just what it meant. Homogenized was one the first word that captured my attention. It makes me smile each time I think of sitting at the breakfast table asking my grandmother what the word meant. A self taught woman, who never made it passed the fifth grade, but my grandmother knew the answers to all my probing questions. She was the first of many “teachers” I had that made me thirst for more knowledge, more words, more books, more power.The city where I grew up, Zanesville, Ohio, small, nestled in the foothills of Appalachia,too some not much to look at or even want to settle in but the care that small town gave to the children, all children was invaluable. Whether it was kindergarten or my senior year in high school I was fortunate to have educators who truly cared about their students, all students, regardless of race, religion or social standing. Unlike so many students who enter college, with no direction, no idea what they want to do with their lives, what major to pursue, I was torn between two paths. I knew I wanted to teach and I knew I wanted to teach high schoolers. I could not decide whether it was to be English or History. I was torn because of the teachers I had and what they had instilled in me. Judy Robinson, was my senior English teacher, who opened my eyes, and mind to the wonders of Chaucer and Shakespeare. Bill Davis was my History teacher who opened my heart to loving and exploring out past, understanding the now, and wondering what all the tomorrows would bring. I chose History as my major, but did so with almost 35 hours of English tucked into my full schedule for good measure. Four years later, I returned to that small town in Ohio, that most people who drive through may not appreciate, or want to settle in… and I taught. I feel proud that I walked in the footsteps of those I consider to be giants. I walked in their footsteps each day hoping that I could make a difference in someone’s life as they had mine.