Teaching is a demanding job that can be emotionally draining, and at times, seem impossible. But when it calls to you, as it did Precious Lango, the chance to transform lives outweighs the hardships.
Every morning, Precious Lango faces a task too daunting for most of us. She’s a math teacher at Webster Middle School in Tulsa, braving the wilds of adolescent education with joy, faith, and love for her job, her kids, and her new home.
Neither teaching nor Tulsa is where she thought she’d end up when she graduated from Georgia Southern University in 2014.
“After graduating college, I was sure I was going to be a physical therapist,” she says. “I had an internship planned and was waiting to hear back from the PT programs that I had applied to. Shortly after graduating, all the plans I had made fell through. I had to come up with something to do. A friend told me to check out City Year.”
City Year is a member of the AmeriCorps national service network and is an education nonprofit dedicated to helping students and schools be successful. Since its founding more than 20 years ago, nearly 1 million men and women have stepped forward to serve, providing more than 1.2 billion hours of results-driven service to the nation.
Education is the single largest priority area for AmeriCorps. Likewise, City Year believes that national service has a powerful role to play in improving educational outcomes for students. For every federal dollar invested in City Year through AmeriCorps, an additional $4 are raised in matching support through private and local resources.
“I went online and after reading about the work that City Year does, I knew I had to be a part of this program. In the application process, there is an option to choose where you would like to serve or to serve where most needed,” she says. “Because I had never lived in any of the 25 cities that were listed, plus I’m a big believer in fate, I decided to serve where most needed.
“God’s plans for me were different from what I had planned. I’ve now lived in Tulsa for three years teaching, and Tulsa is becoming more and more like home.”
Lango’s time with City Year proved to her that education was her passion.
“I love being able to love, support, and encourage the kids I’m working with,” she says. “I want to show them that despite being told that they ‘can’t’ either by people or circumstances that in fact they actually ‘can.’ I love getting to work with them and seeing them go from not understanding a math concept to succeeding in that particular skill. I love being able to talk, listen, and walk with them through the obstacles that life sometimes puts in our way.”
Lango’s love for teaching is obvious, and she’s joyous about it.
“I love being able to spread love to my students. I love being able to speak life into them, to encourage them, to show them that they can,” she says. “Too often, students feel like they aren’t smart enough or they aren’t a math person, and I want to show them all people are math people. I love being an adult they can trust when life gets in the way. I enjoy seeing them become successful in math and in school in general.”
She is devoted to her students, school and even the administration as well, which is beyond admirable considering the low pay Oklahoma teachers receive and that it’s estimated that over 1 million teachers nationally move in and out of schools annually, and between 40-50 percent quit within five years.
“I love the kids. I’m convinced the students here are some of the best students in Tulsa. They have such big hearts and even bigger personalities, and I love it,” she says. “They are the reason that I am here day in and day out. I also really love the administration. I am thankful to have served at Webster High School.”
We’ve all read or heard how hard teachers work and how many hours they put in. But unless you’ve spent time in the classroom, especially in Oklahoma, it’s hard to really appreciate how they help under-achievers to fly and keep over-achievers grounded.
At a time when educators are courageously raising the bar for student achievement higher than ever before, the job of Lango and the American teacher has never been more critical to the success of our children and to the prosperity of our nation. Educators frequently share that teaching is the most difficult job that anyone can have and, at times, the most rewarding.
“It’s challenging to have work-life balance. I’ve struggled greatly with not working so much at home and finding time to be a human and take care of myself,” she says. “I spend a lot of time being involved in my church, Transformation Church. When not teaching or at church, I love to cook, go to the movies, or attend sporting events.”
If you’re considering being a hero taking on the awesome task of teaching, Lango has some advice.
“Know and understand that this work is hard, but it is absolutely worth it. It’s challenging and can be stressful, but remember that the work is not about you as the teacher but about the students,” she says. “Teach to give kids access to things they never thought could be theirs, to spread love, and to give courage to students to go out and change the world.
“Teaching in the state of Oklahoma can be even more difficult because of the state of education here. In my opinion, this makes it even more worth it because the kids here deserve to have a great education regardless of what part of town or of the state they are from.”
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