Storyteller: Marissa (she/her/hers), 23, Utah
“My first memorable experience with STEM was a math class I took in middle school. My teacher at the time, had a reputation for being a harsh grader with high expectations, to say the least, many students didn’t like him. When I took his class, at first, I wasn’t doing so well, struggling with the materials and not getting the grades I hoped for. I was discouraged and afraid to ask for help until I sat down to talk to my teacher with my dad during parent-teacher conferences.
During that meeting, I remember my teacher praising my work, telling my dad he should be proud to have such a hard-working daughter that was interested in STEM. I was confused at first because I knew I wasn’t doing well in his class, but he turned to me and said, “All I ask is for my students to do their best, math is hard, and learning to figure out problems comes with time, but only if you are willing to put in the effort.” He later told me that he would rather have a B student who worked hard, rather than an A student who hardly tried at all. I continued to struggle with his class that semester, but I did eventually end up with that A.
As a middle schooler, I didn’t quite understand my teacher’s perspective on work ethic, but as a college graduate, who has gone through her fair share of STEM-related classes, I recognize the drive he was looking for. My teacher was an immigrant who had come to America to learn English and get an education. He later found his passion in teaching math and never failed to remind students of the importance of working hard and continuing to try. As I have continued my education I truly understand his reasoning behind sharing his story about coming to America and why he expected so much of his students. He knew that we all had what it takes to continue down a path in STEM, as long as we were willing to put in the work it took for it to happen.”