Dancer, US Navy attorney, assistant county council, and substitute teacher—English teacher Georgia Daniels has served as them all. After 13 years of teaching English at San Gabriel High School, she will now be moving on towards the next chapter of her life as a full-time, self-employed conflict mediator.
Before becoming a teacher, Daniels served as a lawyer at both the government and private level; her transition from practicing law to teaching was far from smooth sailing.
However, what began as a struggle slowly evolved into a fulfilling journey where she was able to educate and push her students toward “finding their own power.”
“[Teaching] wasn’t a very good fit at first. When I started, I had only taught for three to four weeks and had one training program. I didn’t have any idea what I was doing, and I made some mistakes with discipline,” Daniels said. “But it grew into something more. After I started teaching English Learners and AP, my goal was no longer to get out as soon as I could because I really enjoyed it a lot.”
From there, Daniels’s passion for teaching grew as she saw her students “develop into capable writers, speakers, and thinkers.” As she shared her ideas with her students, she also learned from them, and for Daniels, that reciprocity is the most important to her. Teaching provided her with not only the pleasure to educate others, but the opportunity for learning experiences as well.
“[Students] have the sage-on-the-stage and the guide-on-the-side. The more I stay on the side, really, the more I like it, because then the kids really have the chance to shine,” Daniels said. “If I quit learning, then I would definitely think it’s time for me to stop teaching. But I’m still learning from my students.”
For Daniels, one of her greatest learning experiences was developing the ability to see a gift in each of her students.
“I don’t think that I was necessarily a very respectful person when I first started. When you’re in the Navy, you’re an officer, and you’re a lawyer, sometimes you can get delusions of superiority,” Daniels said. “But everybody is worthy of respect. [After teaching], I think I’ve learned to abandon that because I’ve really learned that everybody has some kind of strength.”
This kindness and compassion allowed Daniels to foster close bonds with both her students and colleagues. Mathematics teacher Pek Lee was among those companions; in 2014-15, they frequently went on walks and did yoga after school to relieve stress. With her exercise partner leaving, Lee said that she will “miss [Daniels] a lot.”
“It wasn’t just about walking or doing yoga. We actually talked, and I feel like I’ve learned a lot from her. Sometimes when I was stuck with some kind of problem, I asked for her advice and opinion,” Lee said. “To me, it’s something that’s really different because I’m in the Math department and she’s in the English department. I always felt like being a math teacher was the most difficult job because you have to get students motivated, but I found out it was really similar for English classes too.”
Senior Minh Bach, who entered San Gabriel only two months ago and attended Daniels’s Structured English Immersion class, said that he feels “so lucky to [have] learned in her classroom.” Upon entering her class, Daniels personally helped Bach with his English skills after school.
“Thank you for everything, [Ms. Daniels]. I only had two months with you, but I had many memories with you, and I am very grateful for all that you have done for me,” Bach said.
Although her teaching career has come to an end, Daniels’s experiences have undoubtedly given her the power to touch the lives of those around her, and her profound influence will continue to live on beyond the classroom.