It’s National Teacher Appreciation Week, a time when everyone should stop to thank our educators for all they do to build strong communities. The American Red Cross in Greater New York is proud to count many wonderful teachers among our dedicated volunteers. This week, we want to spotlight their amazing commitment, compassion and talent.
Jean F. Cappello
Jean began her teaching career in 1967 in Santiago de Chile. She taught in San Juan, Puerto Rico, before returning to the states to teach junior high school. After obtaining her Masters and Ph.D., Jean taught Latin American Literature at Rutgers University and at Fordham University.
Jean first came to volunteer with the Red Cross after Hurricane Katrina, about 10 years ago. She originally intended to be a responder, but after Red Cross staff saw her lengthy experience as an educator, they convinced her to be an instructor, teaching CPR. After four years, Jean became an individual responder. Currently, she is on a small committee that is rewriting the manual to change how new responders are trained when they join the organization.
Q: What inspired you to be a teacher?
A: From the time I was a kid, I loved teaching. I had wonderful teachers -- Mrs. Wiley, in particular, helped to draw back the curtain on how to read. I worked as a volunteer at the first Head Start program where I grew up. When we moved to Chile, I didn’t speak Spanish, but there were bilingual schools, so it was a plus to be a native English speaker. I hadn’t trained yet to be a teacher, but I received a lot of on-the-job training, which was marvelous.
Q: What characteristics do you think a teacher and a Red Cross volunteer have in common?
A: One characteristic that that we are always in training, always learning. Training is so important for new volunteers. Often, if they don’t have good experience training, they may drop out.
As teachers, we are very interested in the experience of others. For example, at first you may have become a history teacher because you love history. But after a few years, what keeps you motivated is how to inspire students. To work with the Red Cross, you have to be engaged with clients – whether teaching CPR or in the field after a disaster – to think about what the Red Cross can do to make this situation better. We really have to see things through the eyes of others.
For me, one of the most engaging things [both as a teacher and as a Red Cross volunteer] is that you meet all kinds of people. Whether you work as a responder or a CPR instructor we meet folks from all backgrounds. I ask why they came to the Red Cross and I hear all kinds of answers from job requirements to new grandchildren.
Some people want to work with the Red Cross because their family was helped by Red Cross during a disaster. Others see it as a resume building opportunity. There are 1000s of reasons. It’s fascinating work, and gives you such an enhanced view of the society we are living with. It really gets you out in the wider community.
Read all of our teacher profiles at: http://changinglivesstorybook.blogspot.com/