“When teaching becomes this easy conversation, learning becomes an incredible discovery for both students and teachers.”
Dave Gerber reflects on what’s been, what COVID left behind, and what’s coming next!
Q. What brought you to UCR University Extension?
A. I came to California as a pre-retirement choice. My travels in education remain very unique, and once I began talking with a financial planner, we concluded that wrapping up my career in Arizona and finishing my final years in another state made the most sense. A good friend of mine had just retired from the Sierra Sands district, and she introduced me to their HR director, who is now the Superintendent. My skills and experiences matched what they were looking for, and at the end of the game, I was sitting in Ridgecrest, California.
Q. What were some of the unexpected hurdles in your journey?
A. I didn’t expect California to require additional training to gain the CLAD-CTEL certification. I’ve had similar training in Arizona, and I certified in a number of other states. I didn’t really want my credential hanging over me, so I started looking for an online program that would allow me to progress toward this goal. My district, as well as a number of colleagues, recommended UCR University Extension’s program.
Q. What were some of the unexpected benefits?
A. It was great for me to be back in the classroom as a student. I finished my last graduate degree almost ten years ago, and it was especially helpful to take an online course during COVID. While it would be ridiculous to say that I fully identify with a teenager in high school or a young adult in college, I do understand some of the trials that lockdown education provided. The review of pedagogy and teaching craft has also provided me with some additional grounding, so I think it has helped me gain some additional focus as my career winds down.
Q. Looking back at where you were when you started this journey, where did you think or hope it would lead you?
A. This was the last step in clearing my California credential, and this was my goal in enrolling in the program.
Q. What difference did your experience at UCR University Extension make to your life path and career goals?
A. I thought I was going to be satisfied with a focus on teaching until I finally retire, but being part of a group of professionals pursuing additional expertise has made me realize that I really enjoy the process. While I don’t think I want to return to lead administrator roles, this experience has encouraged me to seek additional leadership roles, and having cleared my credential, I can now start exploring those possibilities.
Q. What are you doing now, Dave?
A. I currently teach a couple of high school college prep English courses and a handful of dual credit English offerings at Sierra Sands Unified School District, as well as a college course or two at Cerro Coso Community College, depending on their needs.
Q. What have been some of the most exciting or rewarding moments of your career so far?
A. When I was in Arizona, I was the principal of a school that partnered with a federal job training program. I met a number of young people from all over the world, as well as some incredibly remote parts of the U.S. The schools I work with right now also have some of these same dynamics. Being a part of these young people’s experiences and helping feed and realize the goals that they generate is incredibly gratifying.
Q. What professional and personal achievements are you most proud of, and why?
A. Social media, while it poses some incredible challenges to our society, is really great. Those that “friend me” know that I occasionally have bursts of activity, but for the most part, I lurk. Even though I find much of it is useless, I still keep my accounts. Here’s why: occasionally – more often as I get older – I get to see my former students. I see them having children, getting married, and participating in rewarding careers as airplane pilots, hairstylists, engineers, personal trainers, and even educators. Goodness, those little snapshots sure make me proud.
Q. What has been the greatest challenge you have faced during your career?
A. Teaching during COVID proved to be a huge mountain. My digital skills are very well-developed, so that wasn’t the issue. Watching a segment of our kids tailspin, and our society’s inability to address it has been befuddling. Returning from lockdown education hasn’t been the panacea that we were led to believe it would be, and so I think our biggest challenge is still in front of us.
Q. What career (or other) advice would you give to students or graduates looking to move into your industry?
A. I think it is important to remember that this industry is education. As teachers, we have to always continue to pursue learning that results in better skills to benefit our students. Those who don’t do this leave the profession, and they are often bitter and dejected. Those who continue to pursue the craft and consistently apply their newfound knowledge will recognize huge rewards. These people are easy to recognize: they are happy, and they are excited every day.
Q. In your life today, what makes you really happy?
A. Great discussions with young people. When teaching becomes this easy conversation, learning becomes an incredible discovery for both students and teachers.
Q. Was there a particular department, staff member, or instructor memorable to your experience?
A. I really enjoyed Elaine Giron’s pragmatism. She understood the value of application, and I felt like I walked away from my interactions in her courses with a number of practical things that I could incorporate into my own classes the next day. I also greatly enjoyed Stephanie LaQua’s enthusiasm. It was very evident that she was passionate about English language learning.
Q. What are your hopes and aims for your future?
A. I’m looking forward to finishing my career. It has been very rewarding, but I do look forward to traveling and spending more time with my family.
In David’s words, “I still have a few good years left, but I look forward to retiring and watching my own children as they finish the first part of their academic journey and apply it to their lives.”
We love hearing from students who are in all phases of their careers and lives. Dave is a perfect example of what Lifelong Learning is all about, and we wish him the best in his next chapter—although we don’t think we’ve heard the last from him!
David Gerber, MA, EdS
English Teacher, Sherman Burroughs High School, Sierra Sands Unified School District
Adjunct Faculty, Cerro Coso Community College
Graduate, UCR University Extension
Professional Certificate in CLAD-CTEL