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WhyIChoseEducation: ‘Education Has Helped Me See the World in Different Ways,’ Says Samaria Warsaw ’21MAT

Photo of Samaria Warsaw with quote: 'Education Has Helped Me See the World in Different Ways'

When Samaria Warsaw ’21MAT was a high school student in Indiana, AP English was her favorite class. She had grown up reading books and writing poetry, but it was that class and her teacher, John Lambersie, that pushed her to major in English, in addition to psychology, in college and inspired her to pursue a career in education. 

At first, that meant higher education. After earning a master’s degree in public administration, Warsaw worked in financial aid and scholarships for more than 16 years, first at her alma mater, Indiana University, and then, after moving to North Carolina with her husband, at NC State University. 

However, Warsaw never shook her desire to be the type of English teacher who inspired her in high school. A line in a book about making a career pivot, coupled with a chance meeting with a woman who had chosen a second career as a teacher, convinced Warsaw that it was finally time to enter the classroom.

“Those were the signs that I needed to move forward and step out of my own comfort zone and try it,” Warsaw said.

For Warsaw, who was working in NC State’s Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid, the College of Education’s Master of Arts in Teaching program was the perfect entry point for her new career. She completed her student teaching at Broughton High School, while students were still taking classes remotely, and then began her first year in the classroom at Willow Spring High School, when students were just beginning to return to in-person instruction. 

At first, Warsaw said, it was a challenge to connect with students who had spent so much time learning online. But, she took steps to increase engagement, setting aside time on Fridays for each student to talk about one good thing that happened to them that week and emphasizing the value she placed in their perspectives — even providing one-on-one instruction to a student who struggled with speaking up during a Scoratic semester.

“That experience really helped build some trust between us, and it really allowed her to see that she was capable of doing well,” Warsaw said.

The effort Warsaw put into creating an engaging classroom was recognized when she was named one of the Wake County Public School System’s 2022 Diane Kent Parker First-Year Teachers of the Year. As Warsaw enters her third year as a teacher, she said she has continued to grow as an educator, and it’s not just Wake County students and teachers who are taking notice. 

When she left a comment in a Facebook group for AP English Language teachers across the country, she was surprised to see her former teacher, John Lambersie, respond. 

The following interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

Why I Chose Education:

It’s something that I value as a person and I see the importance of it. When I think back on my experiences, even in elementary, middle or high school, there’s so many key teachers that stick out to me, and I think about the impact that they have had for me. I just love the idea of being a positive role model for other students.

I often hear there are students who don’t enjoy reading texts — they’re just like, “OK, how am I going to use this in the future?” But I think the skills that you learn in English, like how to be a critical thinker, are something that you can apply and should apply throughout life. That’s the beauty of English. You can do that through texts, written or visual. Those skills are skills that you can use in anything.

How Education Has Shaped Me:

Education is a huge part of who I am. I consider myself a lifelong learner. I’ve gotten advanced degrees, but in general, I make a point to educate myself in reading different things and focusing on personal development. 

It’s definitely made me the person that I am. It’s giving me a value for education and higher education as well. Education has helped me see the world in different ways that maybe I would not have otherwise. That’s the beauty of literature as well. Because you get to experience and see things through someone else’s experience. 

What I Enjoyed Most About the College of Education:

I really had some great professors. In particular, I really just enjoyed the classes and conversations with [Director of Professional Education] Sarah Cannon and [Associate Professor] Carl Young. I still keep in touch with them. I also learned some really good teaching strategies and techniques that I still use now.

What Others Should Know About the College of Education:

If they’re looking for a high quality educational experience, where they’re going to learn how to be well-trained educators, the program is for them. 

On a personal level, the professors are caring and personable, and they really care about what they do. I definitely felt supported in my program and I know that they will as well.

The Last Thing That Inspired Me:

I like gardening. I think it has a lot to do with my grandmother. She had a green thumb. One of the last pictures that I took was this wall that had all of these plants on it and it inspired me because now I want to create something like that, just beautiful greenery that you can look at, these beautiful flowers that bring you joy.