We are reaching out to students who are utilizing the UW–Madison School of Education Wisconsin Teacher Pledge program to pursue their goal of becoming an educator. Following is a Q&A with Jon-Luc Cayabyab, who is working toward a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, with secondary education teaching certification.
I am originally from McHenry, Illinois, and I came to UW–Madison for undergrad. I started my collegiate experience at my local community college (McHenry County College), which is where I fostered an interest in psychology. UW has a good psychology program and was pretty close to home, so I decided to check it out and immediately fell in love with the campus. When I decided to shift my sights to studying education two years after completing my bachelor’s, naturally there was nowhere else I would rather be.
What has been your most meaningful experience at UW–Madison?
This one is hard to say because I feel like being at UW–Madison has been a whole meaningful experience in and of itself. I have made the best friends I have ever had in my life here, and I discovered my passions.
What inspired you to become a teacher?
I did not imagine myself as a classroom teacher until I served with City Year Milwaukee. There I discovered not only was I passionate about advocating for science, but I was passionate about students. I came to see the opportunity gap that exists in education and thought I could play a part in inspiring the next generation to do better than we have done.
So I quit my lab job in pharmaceutical research and took a position as a middle school special education assistant in Madison. There I continued to have the opportunity to build relationships and impart wisdom, and not only could I use my experiences to contribute to the growth of the students, but I was able to learn and grow from the experiences they brought into the classroom and shared with me. And while my mission as a science educator is true, my passion for student success and well-being made me realize that teaching is something I want to do.
How did you hear about the Teacher Pledge, and what was your reaction?
The Teacher Pledge was rolled out to my cohort at the end of the summer, and it honestly came as a relief. Even before the pandemic began, supporting myself financially during this year of pre-service teaching was daunting. But the Teacher Pledge put my mind at ease, and additionally it was encouraging to see this institution invest in teachers and in the future. It’s well known that being a teacher can often be a thankless profession, but to be appreciated and valued in this sense from the get go has been a heartwarming way to start my career.
"The Teacher Pledge put my mind at ease, and additionally it was encouraging to see this institution invest in teachers and in the future."
How is the Teacher Pledge making it easier for you to pursue your goal of becoming a teacher?
Building off of what I stated previously, I can focus on learning and honing my craft without the additional stress of paying tuition … Once I have my own classroom, I will be free of that very same financial stress that would have followed me for quite possibly a number of years. I can go forward knowing that I can dedicate my whole self to my classroom, my students, and the school community I become a part of.
How do you hope to make a difference as an educator in Wisconsin?
I don’t want to be just another cog in the system. We can always do more and be better for the students we serve, so I hope that wherever I go in Wisconsin I take with me the ideals that push myself and my colleagues to challenge ourselves and the status quo to build an education system that works for every student that comes through our doors. I want to inspire and be inspired every day, whether that be by students, peers, or parents. There is no amount of difference too small — if I can be the reason a student feels safe coming to school on a given day, that is difference enough.
What are your future plans?
In the immediate future I envision myself in more of an urban setting, so I am aiming to teach in either Madison or Milwaukee the next few years while I work through the Teacher Pledge. That very well could also continue for the rest of my career. I am passionate about working in that capacity and could remain content doing so. But I am the type of person that has gotten used to changing pace every few years, so I could also imagine myself moving into more suburban or rural schools and bringing aspects of social justice education to a community that has more privilege in a way that fosters allyship. Additionally to changing school environments, I could envision myself as an administrator one day further down the road.