When students apply for college, internships, or jobs, we are always asked to talk about our experiences in leadership and the impact that we’ve had in various areas of our lives. It’s an intimidating set of questions, and it often feels as though our stories are not quite big enough, our leadership level not high enough, our impact not far reaching enough. It’s easy to feel like there is always more you could be doing.

These ideas became most clear to me when I first started to realize that I was destined to work in education. After I spent a summer leading a sixth grade classroom, I fell in love with policy and the big issues of education as well as the joy of teaching. However, as much as I loved teaching, I wanted to do more. There was pressure to make a bigger impact, and at the time, I naively thought that my group of 18 sixth graders was too small. I needed to be more than what I, shamefully, thought of as “just a teacher.”

After that period, I turned my focus to policy, which led me to take an internship with SCORE my sophomore year. At SCORE, I’ve been able to see firsthand the power and influence an organization can have behind the scenes, lifting up issues and making available to key stakeholders as much information as possible about our educational system. More than that, though, SCORE turned my ideas of being “just a teacher” around entirely.

I am ashamed that I thought a teacher’s impact wasn’t big enough and ended at their classroom door. I am even more disappointed that I didn’t realize the sheer amount of power a teacher can have beyond their classroom.

I was fortunate enough to attend the third Tennessee Educator Fellowship convening this year for the 2017-18 cohort. There, I was surrounded by educators who were not only champions for their students, schools, and districts, but for all Tennessee students. Beyond their individual advocacy projects, in which they worked specifically on issues that they care deeply about and effect their students daily, they were preparing to engage their parents and take back information about state standards to their districts and teaching teams.

None of these duties are things that are required to get a teaching certification. None of these tasks are required for them to do their jobs and to do them well. But they, much like me, are striving to do their best, and to make the biggest impact they can. And they’re doing it together.