“A super long time ago my elementary teacher asked what I wanted to be when I grew up,” she explained to the class as their tiny faces began to scrunch in wonder while they thought about what they wanted to be when they got older. “And I said that I wanted to be a teacher.”
That wasn’t always the case for Horizon Elementary School teacher, Tiana Stauffer.
Stauffer was a driven student by the time she reached high school. Between the summer of her sophomore and junior year, she picked up concurrent enrollment classes offered at Salt Lake Community College. Within two years of starting her first class, Stauffer graduated with a degree in general studies from SLCC before she even graduated high school.
“My professor pulled me aside at the end of the semester along with the 60-year-old lady, and told us how ironic it was that the youngest and oldest student had the highest grades in her class,” says Stauffer.
The hard work paid off. Upon graduation she was offered an academic scholarship to the University of Utah. In the fall of 2011, Stauffer encountered a slight change in focus. An interest toward medicine began to usurp her dreams of becoming a teacher.
After a challenging semester of school and volunteer work, Stauffer came to realize that she wasn’t all that enthusiastic about this new path.
“It was weird because I was always a really good student who didn’t have to put in a ton of effort to get good grades, but when I took my first semester, no matter how hard I tried, I was getting B’s and C’s.”
Stauffer felt lost.
“I then changed my direction and wanted to focus on getting a Family Studies and Social Development degree because of the positive impact I could have on others,” Stauffer says. Her plan remained the same for the next two and a half years, until she graduated with a Bachelors degree in 2013.
Once again, that familiar feeling rushed over her.
“I had no idea what I wanted to do after I wasn’t accepted into the masters program. At that point I had no idea what I was going to do with my life,” Stauffer says.
That’s when she volunteered part time at Horizon Elementary School. Something just felt right while she was teaching the children there.
After her volunteer work was over, she decided to apply for a fulltime position at the school. Soon she was offered a job. In fact, Horizon Elementary is the same school where she proclaimed her desire to be a teacher.
Although Stauffer didn’t get a teaching degree, she believes she’s in a better position than some of the faculty that doesn’t have her school background. The social work aspects that she learned throughout college apply directly to her methods of teaching students.
It seems as though Stauffer has a lot of flashbacks to her college days, often finding herself up late at night cramming the work she’ll present the following morning.
“It’s funny because in college I was doing homework, now I’m creating or grading homework, it never ends.”
Jokes aside, Stauffer offers some insight to students who are currently trying to decide what path to take: “In terms of advice, I’d encourage students to volunteer and get as much of experience as they can in the field to see if they truly like what they’re doing. Don’t get your heart set on one thing.”
Tiana Stauffer speaks from experience. She found herself in the very same position most students find themselves in at Salt Lake Community College. One of her biggest regrets is not having the time between high school and college to sit down and really ponder what she wants to do with her life. Consequentially, it cost her a year of trial and error at a university before she finally decided her major.
Stauffer offers some more words of encouragement to students: “Keep pushing toward one major, don’t waste your time and money in college being undecided, I’d make sure what you’re [going to school for] is what you’re going to be passionate about.”
Without a doubt, Tiana has found her passion in teaching. At 21 years old, she is confident that she will be teaching for the rest of her life.
“I want to be a doctor,” says one of her students. “When I grow up I want to be a police officer,” says another. Ms. Stauffer finds joy in hearing the aspirations of her second-grade class. Who knows, the quiet girl in the back, with dreams of being a teacher, may come true later on down the road…
After all, she’s in good hands.