Roosevelt High School business teacher Linda Jean Voth was named Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship Global Teacher of the Year in November. In October she was honored with the Toastmasters International District 33 Communication and Leadership Award and in September the Marjaree Mason Center recognized her with a Top Ten Women and Leading Business Award.
Francine Farber, an education advocate with special ties to the Roosevelt region, had high praise for Voth, including for her work with the IRS Academy. Students volunteer for six hours on Saturdays in November through January to learn how to complete income tax forms. In February they offer their free services to low-income residents every Saturday.
"Every year the IRS agents are blown away by her wonderful students, themselves low income," Farber said.
We caught up with Voth to learn more about what makes her tick.
You took a winding road to teaching. What made you decide to pursue teaching?
After starting at Planned Parenthood of Central California as an administrative assistant, I continued to go to school and eventually became an educator for Planned Parenthood. That is when I discovered I loved to teach and I had a gift of being able to relate, share my knowledge, and help others. The grant for that job ran out, I finished my degree and saw an ad in the Fresno Bee for a business teacher. I applied and was hired on an emergency credential. Thrown into a classroom, went to school at night (again) to get my business credential -- and here I am today, 19 years later.
What works best to motivate students?
I believe teaching is all about relationships. If students trust you and know that you care about them they will be motivated to do the best they can. Many of my students come from circumstances that would be daunting to you or me, but they come to school every day, ready to learn, eager to succeed and strive to accomplish what no one in their family has ever done before -- graduate from high school and go on to graduate from college or get certified to do a number of important jobs that don't require college.
What do you enjoy the most about teaching at Roosevelt?
Roosevelt has students who are eager to learn and will not give up. I learn from my students every day -- they are bright, intelligent, and know more about technology than I ever will -- and I teach technology. I am supported by colleagues who are as dedicated and motivated to help our students as I am. Two teachers have been my mentors and I could not have done this job without their help -- Jeff Hopkins and John Chang.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
There are never enough hours in the day. I probably work 60 hours a week. Why? My students participate in many competitions -- we stay late to finish projects. Other students need help -- be it homework for another class or with filling out employment applications -- I'm here.
Tell us about the teens in need you have brought into your home.
First, there was Caleb. His dad was in rehab for drugs and his mom was in rehab for alcohol. He was full of fun. Caleb lived with us for about a year. He was a good student, went to school every day, made new friends and graduated from Edison. He is now a chef in Las Vegas -- has a beautiful wife and five children.
My first year teaching our home phone rang in the middle of the night. It was one of my students, Rosa. She had been beaten up by a "boyfriend" and didn't even know where she was. She asked me to come get her. We brought her home. I found out she was living on the streets -- no family here. She was bright and never missed a day of school. We took her in, she went to school, got two jobs, and lived with us for two years. She graduated from high school, put herself through college and became a registered nurse. Last fall she was accepted to the University of Michigan Graduate School to do a double major Nurse Practitioner/Certified Nurse Midwife -- one of only 20 accepted.
Next came Graciela, one of my students. She was living with an aunt but had been kicked out. She came to live with us to finish out the school year, about four months. She graduated with a 3.9 GPA, joined the Air Force, excelled there in the four years she served. Today she is happily married with 2 children.
What book are you recommending to others right now?
One of my latest favorites is "All the Light We Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr.
What's your favorite book for high school students?
Have been recommending "Mindset" by Carol S. Dweck to my seniors. This is a book to help them learn how to fulfill their potential.
Being a business teacher, is there a business you would like to launch?
I have owned two businesses with my husband at the time. Both were highly successful for a time and both went into bankruptcy. Painful, but learning experiences that I can share with my students and others. Don't really want to go there again.
The one thing I would like to do is become a consultant to teachers. I feel like I have a wealth of experience I could share and help others succeed. I would especially like to work with new teachers.
Name one thing most people do not know about you.
I go to the gym almost every morning before school and do about 3.7 miles on the treadmill to start my day. Some days I even get up to 4 miles.