According to Ben Cavanaugh, he was supposed to be a lawyer, a doctor, an engineer — or any other number of careers befitting the Alta Loma High School valedictorian.
"Though I always respected my K-12 teachers and admired their intellect, passion and skills, I never saw myself in their shoes because in my adolescent, inexperienced mind, I saw teaching as somehow beneath my aspirations," Cavanaugh said. "After all, couldn't anyone teach?"
It's ironic that, despite his initial resistance to teaching, he landed in a classroom — but not at all surprising, he said.
"I always loved education. I always loved learning. I always loved being a student in the classroom. And now I love teaching," said Cavanaugh, the social studies department chair who teaches advanced placement government and U.S. history at Rancho Cucamonga High School.
He was inspired to become an educator while finishing up a master's in theology at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena. At the time he worked two jobs: substitute teaching in the Chaffey Joint Union High School District and owning a small pool-cleaning business.
"I sold the business and remained with substitute teaching. This is where I fell in love with the idea of having my own classroom and being a star on my own stage," Cavanaugh recalled. "As a student, I excelled. It was only natural that I continue my love of education as a teacher since I couldn't remain a full-time student."
Cavanaugh said he also chose to teach because he is a product of public education and believes youths need a quality education more so now than ever before.
"I chose to teach because strong learners make strong teachers. I want to inspire and recruit more students like me into the classroom or into my field of study," Cavanaugh said. "I teach because students deserve a quality experience in the classroom. Public education can and should be riveting."
His goal is to leave a lasting impression on as many students as possible.
"Not everyone will get an A in history or government, but every student can leave inspired and feeling better about their ability to succeed in the classroom," Cavanaugh said. "I want the students who come through my classroom to develop a newfound love of history and government and to look back on their time in my classroom as one of their best memories of high school."