By Karen Leigh

(CBS4) – Lauren Jaffee, Troy Fangmeir and Charlotte Nicholsen are all getting ready to graduate from the University of Denver this June. They are eager to mold young minds.

Lauren Jaffee, Troy Fangmeir and Charlotte Nicholsen (credit: CBS)

CBS4’s Karen Leigh sat down with all of them to talk about the most exciting thing about starting their careers in teaching at a time when there’s a decrease nationwide in the number of students getting into teaching programs.

Jaffee said it’s “simply the opportunity to connect with kids.”

“I don’t think a lot of jobs give you time to interact with people the way you get to interact with teaching. You really get to know your kids and you like, love them,” she said.

Jaffee is hoping to teach middle schoolers and already knows being “real” is important.

“I think — first and foremost — is not to take myself too seriously. Laughing in the classroom is so important,” she said.

Fangmeir says teaching has been his calling for years.

“I started teaching youth basketball at the YMCA down the street and I quickly learned what a passion I have for working with youth,” Fangmeir said.

I asked them to look back over what teachers, students and parents have all been through with the pandemic and wanted them to share their thoughts on all of it.

Lauren Jaffee, Troy Fangmeir and Charlotte Nicholsen (credit: CBS)

Jaffee said “For me to go back and say I would’ve done this differently is so hard because in that time in that mindset you didn’t know what kind of future was going to happen.”

Nicholsen said “I think that all of those protests over masks really took away from academics. Our focus was more on ‘I’m right — you’re wrong’ than ‘We’re doing this for the kids, and what’s going to help them.’ My hope is that everyone is respectful of everyone’s choices. We are all individual selves and I teach my students that it’s you’re decision — your life.”

Fangmeir said “On the one hand, I can totally see why some people are leaving teaching. There are a lot of pressures … ways to make more money. … We live in an unstable society.”

“But for me, the reason I teach is a desire to work with the students…and that’s not going to change.”

Living through and learning from hard times is a lesson in itself.

“I think that every teacher has done their best. I don’t think I’ve met a teacher at my school or anywhere else where they didn’t give it their all,” Jaffee said.

Karen Leigh