23세의 이 특수 교육 담당 교사는 뉴 멕시코에 있는 나바호 인디언 거주 지역(보호
지구)의 일부인 토하치에 살고 있다. “많은 학생들이 읽기, 쓰기 및 수학 능력에 지장이
있을 정도로 심신 장애가 있는 아이들입니다. 그래서 제가 맡은 일은 이 아이들에게 여러
면으로 서비스는 제공함으로써 그들이 자기 또래의 다른 아이들의 정도를 따라갈 만큼
나는 이런 식으로 통근을 한다. 나는 내가 가르치는 직장에서 56킬로미터 거리에 산다.
제시카 슈는 사막속을 자도차로 달리며 말했다.
"This is the way usually I go to work, I live about 35 miles [56 kilometers] away from
where I teach," says Jessica Shyu while driving through the desert.
For almost two years, the 23-year-old special education teacher has lived in Tohatchi,
part of the Navajo reservation in New Mexico. "A lot of students have disabilities
that affect their reading, math, and writing skills. My job is to provide them services on a
variety of fronts that will be able to help them be able to perform closer to where their
Shyu majored in journalism in college. Before graduation, she began working for a local
But as Shyu juggled her responsibilities as a student and a reporter,
she began to question her dream of becom ing a full-time journalist.
One day, Shyu came across a "Teach for America" advertisement.
The New York City-based non-profit organization recruits outstanding college graduates
nationwide to teach in areas that have a shortage of qualified teachers.
Shyu decided to apply for the program without telling her parents, and got in.
"We both felt really shocked when we found out she would be a teacher,"
recalls her mother, "especially because she would be all the way in New Mexico.
I felt really worried because she would be so far away.
For a young girl to give up such a comfortable and colorful city life
and go to a place far from home really isn't easy."
"I understand now what people mean by the 'simple life,' she writes in an e-mail.
"The simple life, often associated with rural life -- and, oh lordy, is this rural --
is by no means rustic or quaint. It is rich. Living without a grocery store
for 30 miles [48 kilometers] makes you notice and appreciate the textures in what is there,
like the post office."
At first, Shyu's new life was overwhelming. "Crying, Crying, Crying,"
says a later e-mail message. "As promised, I cried, and cried, and cried.
Despite working 18 hours a day, I am always behind. Each day I am a little more behind.
Who am I kidding? Each day I am a lot more behind."
She credits her friends and family for helping her persevere.
"But very soon, they were very supportive," she says.
"My parents helped me collect books for my classroom, they would ship books,
people would drop off books at their office and they would mail them down to New
Mexico for me."
Shyu's special education students will eventually return to regular classrooms
and continue their studies with other kids their age. Shyu is still young
and has many goals. She wants to earn a master's degree, write articles about education,
and develop books for children with learning disabilities.
"I don't know. I'm still open," she says. "I never expected to be a teacher,
let alone like being a teacher. So who knows where I might be in another two years.
But right now I think that whatever I do, my roots in education will always be
grounded here in New Mexico."
"The sky in New Mexico is so big. Before I came out here I forgot that peripheral vision
and strains across the front to almost the back of my ears.
My eyes are so wide -- I see everything."