Teachers We Love

Five educators share treasured takeaways from their years on the job.
Tosin Aderton, Oak St Es

STEAM teacher Tosin Adetoro at Oak Street Elementary (Photo by Skip Brown)

Tosin Adetoro

STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, math) teacher
Oak Street Elementary School (formerly Thomas Jefferson Elementary), Falls Church
Years teaching: 17

Born in Kaduna, Nigeria, Adetoro spent two years as the Loudoun County Public Schools Aerospace Educator in Residence at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly. In 2019, she was named K-5 Teacher of the Year by the Air & Space Forces Association Steel Valley Chapter, and a Blue Angels’ Highly Qualified and Influential Educator in the D.C., Maryland and Virginia Region.

I became a teacher because I have a love for learning. My dad is a retired industrial arts professor. I have a sister and a brother (I’m one of six) who are also teachers. We’re a family of educators.

A lot of people look at STEAM and STEM as the individual subjects. I don’t. I’m trying to develop critical thinkers and problem solvers, with skills they can apply to any subject and be successful. I challenge students to try things. There’s a lot of power in learning what you don’t like, as well as what you do like.

I was timid and quiet in high school. I majored in physics in college because I had an amazing high school physics teacher. He was also the coach of the chess team and I was the only girl on the chess team at the time. He made me feel like I was valued.

Most of my teaching career was at the secondary level until five years ago, when I began teaching elementary schoolers. I love their passion. They don’t hold anything back. They challenge me to find ways to break things down for them. When I close my classroom door and look at those faces, I get all of my energy from my students. That’s my happy place.

It’s definitely an emotional time for teachers. You run the gamut of feeling happy, sad, grateful, scared, angry. Above all, I am thankful that I could come back, see the faces in my classroom and celebrate with my students.

STEM needs to be accessible to all. In 2014, I started a small business in Maryland, Get Into Stem, that provides affordable learning opportunities. I don’t ever want students to feel like, “Oh, I gotta have the $100 robot in order to continue the learning.”

I went through the struggles of being an African American Black female in science. I didn’t always get looked at like I was intelligent, like I could do the work. I had to fight my way—and I still have to fight my way—because I don’t look like a STEM teacher. When I started teaching in Loudoun County, I was the only female tech-ed teacher in the whole district. Let’s not talk about Black female teacher. Representation is important. It helps when kids have role models who look like them.

In May 2019, I was named a Blue Angels’ Highly Qualified and Influential Educator in the D.C., Maryland and Virginia Region. I was invited to take a flight with the Blue Angels. This honor meant to me that I was getting something right. It meant that I was making the difference that I set out to make.

When I come into the classroom, I want students to understand that it is totally okay to be different. I want them to know that yes, you can do it, too. –Wendy Kantor

Categories: Education