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Voices from the Classroom: Dayton Independent Schools on mission — be inspired by these teachers

By Chris Wright
Dayton High School

This school year Dayton Independent Schools are “On A Mission!” At our staff opening day, Dayton Superintendent Jay Brewer challenged every teacher in the district to articulate their mission, or their “why” they teach, in a personal mission statement of eight words or less.

As Assistant Principal of Dayton High School, I have had the opportunity to review missions and the reasons behind those missions with our teachers. Quite frankly, our staff have blown me away. It is absolutely amazing to hear from passionate educators who are driven to succeed in their profession through purpose.

With that in mind, I wanted to share a sampling of our teacher’s mission statements and the reasoning behind them.

“Be A Difference Maker — Not A Money Maker”
Brad Campbell, Social Studies Teacher

Brad Campbell

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in marketing, I was incredibly fortunate to receive a full-time job with the company I had interned with during the summer before my final semester. It was a small company, and it was on the progressive side of employee relations. It had a family-like culture, flexible schedule, and I was ecstatic to see the compensation plan that accompanied my employment offer letter. I remained with that company for over ten years.

As a newly adorned graduate, the job and company were more than I could have asked for. But as my life evolved from single to married, to being a father, I became aware and reflective of what my legacy on this earth might be.

Consequently, my definition of success shifted. It became increasingly clear that, regardless of how effective a person was at their job or how friendly they became with their co-workers, they were still just an asset expected to cost less than the value they brought to the table. I was no exception. My entire purpose in life was to make money for someone else, and even though I filled my job well, I felt unfulfilled. I needed to feel like my work was more meaningful — like it made a difference.

There are very few professions that afford someone the opportunity to influence change in another person’s life, but teaching is one of those professions. I still do not know what my legacy will be, but I do know this: I can come to school every day, and I can hope to positively impact my students. If there is merely one student whose life I make better in the years that I teach, then my work will have all been worth it.

“Lift Them Up”
Matthew Sumpter, Mathematics Teacher

Matthew Sumpter

It was 2011 and I was working a mid-level management job for one of the largest e-retailers in the world. My salary was more than enough to support my family. I was fairly comfortable with where I was in life, but I wasn’t happy.

During a training seminar, I was asked to write down what people would remember about me if I was to die today. I admit that I didn’t have a lot of truly positive things to say about myself. I was then asked to write down how I wanted people to remember me because this is the person I should try to be.

This got me thinking about my legacy. I asked myself who I remember most or who impacted my life as I was growing up. Every example I came up with was a teacher.
I was fortunate to have teachers who cared about me. Growing up in low-income areas, opportunities to make bad decisions are everywhere. I had teachers who helped guide me through very difficult times in my life and steer me away from most of them.

I had a math teacher who believed in me when I had given up on myself. He taught me what it truly meant to be responsible and make decisions for my future and not to just think about today. I had a science teacher who taught me compassion and how to love all things. My music teacher gave me a place to be other than the streets, which probably saved my life. Most of all I had a principal who was honest with me. He was always there even when I tried to push him away. I remember them so fondly because they helped lift me up when I thought I was at my lowest. These are the people I want to be like.

I decided I was going to be more like the people I respected so much. I want to be known as someone who cares about people, someone who gives back, someone who helps lift people up. This is my mission as a teacher, to “lift them up.” Students need more than curriculum. They need us to show them there is a better way and they are worthy of achievement.

“Be The Light”
Steven Schwartz, Band Director/Music Education Teacher

Stephen Schwartz

As a Dayton alumnus, being home and teaching at DHS is incredibly special. After graduating, my goal was to come home and give back to our community through the power of music.

When our Superintendent Jay Brewer asked me what my mission was, it made me think. I thought of the kids that may not have the necessary support and structure to truly succeed. I thought of the kids who may struggle to eat consistent meals at home. I thought of the kids who may have fallen into the wrong crowd, due to peer pressure and low self-esteem.

At one point in my life, I was this child.

During my time as a student at DHS, I had friends that unfortunately fell into a path of drug and alcohol abuse at a young age. Thankfully, I was able to remove myself from that group and embrace my new band friends – which eventually turned into my band family. This is due to having the support and encouragement of my band directors and my principal.

My recent reflection made me realize how crucial it is to have great role models, leaders, and educators who help shape and mold our children – someone to Be the Light. My band directors and principal helped change the course of my life by giving me the gift of music and encouraging me that I was indeed worth something. This gift and these values blossomed into a passion, and now I am fortunate enough to Be the Light for my current students at DMS/DHS as Director of Bands.

“Help Kids Reach Their Potential In Life”
Joseph Ledonne, Social Studies Teacher

Joseph LaDonne

I have been a part of sports my entire life. Often in sports, we talk about people who could not achieve their full potential. They could have been all-stars or Division I players, but they did not understand how to reach that potential.

I think many students are on this same track, but we as teachers need to help them reach the potential just like good sports coaches.

Whether it is in reading, math, or the arts, we as teachers need to help students reach their full potential.

Every child also has a different potential, so we need to be able to see what their potential is and work towards it. If we understand what their potentials are, we, as teachers, will be able to help achieve their full potentials in life, not just school.


Chris Wright is in his first year as assistant principal at Dayton High School and is in the 12th year in education. He is fired up to be on his mission ‘Anything I Can Do,’ a mission of service to both teachers and students.

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One Comment

  1. Dan Ryan says:

    Joseph Ledonne is an outstanding young man and a great role model for high school students.
    I hope that these kids will see the sincerity and strive to be better on a daily basis.

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