Q & A: Krystal Gamage

Rae Walberg, Staff Writer

How do you help the school?

Number one, I think that I help students become the best leaders they can be, which would be first and foremost. So we are fortunate that Wando High School offers a leadership program for its students. Aside from Student Council, we offer leadership and during that time I work with a group of 30 leaders…
It gives students the opportunity to be better leaders. They develop leadership skills, they develop time management skills, they develop people skills, they develop so so much that they take away with them forever.
But for Wando High School looking in, I run the majority of the events and activities for Wando that are not sports or fine arts. So we do all of the spirit weeks, and within those spirit weeks are pep rallies, homecoming court or teacher court, all of the dances. We do homecoming dance, semi-formal dance, we do the talent show, Powder Puff, Miss Wando, Wandothon. And then every month we do teacher gifts.

How much time does it take you to run all of these events outside of school?

On average, if you take an event week outside of school, probably 30 to 40 hours for an event week, probably less on a non-event week, probably 15 hours.

Do you teach any other classes besides Student Council?

I also teach four sections of Honors World Geography in the mornings. I teach four classes of Honors World Geography back to back, and then I have Student Council all of third block and then I have this (fourth) planning period.

How is balancing Honors World Geography and Student Council?

Really tough. If I didn’t have 14 years of teaching under my belt, there’s no way a new teacher can tackle both. Probably of my teacher life, I dedicate over 50% to Student Council… I always wish that I could do more, it’s just really tough. I think one of the aspects that most people don’t realize when they look in and they say, “what are they doing right now?” The amount of planning and preparation that goes in to one single event or one single activity is just so much.

Why did you decide to go into teaching?

I’ve always wanted to be a teacher… When I was little, I remember I used to set up like a little classroom with my stuffed animals and have a little whiteboard and I would teach them… I like school. My boyfriend always jokes, “I’ve never met anybody who likes school as much as you like school.” And I’m like, “well I’ve been going to school for 30 years now.”

What do you like most about teaching?

I love no matter whether it’s a struggling student or a really advanced student, especially in the leadership class, I love to see them be the best that they could be. I love to see them achieve things and grow. So whether that’s a student that school is tough for them, and they make a big accomplishment or whether that’s like a student leader and they plan an entire event and execute it very well, it’s great to see them thrive.

Is it still worth being a teacher even with inadequate pay and overfilled class sections?

Absolutely. I think the problem is it’s hard to not make it about pay. The difficulty is when you are dedicating so much time and energy, and you can’t make end meet financially. When I first started teaching, my first salary was $24,000 and that was up north. I remember I couldn’t pay for all of my bills, my parents had to help me… I think I can deal with oversized classes. What I can’t deal with is not enough time and support. That’s the problem for me. The question of is it still worth it — yes, because I have gotten so much satisfaction out of being here… I genuinely love coming to work here every day. Like it’s tough, this job is really tough, but I choose to do this. I think if you can come to work and love it every day, that’s a great thing.

What about Wando specifically makes it so enjoyable to teach?

We have the best of the best students. We are very fortunate to have students that want to learn, like to learn, have the motivation to learn. Most of the families are incredibly supportive — they want their children to get an education. So we don’t have some of the same problems like other areas. And I would also say I am really fortunate that I don’t teach five to six different classes. I teach World Geography and I run the Student Council and that’s it. I really like that too and the facilities are really nice. Wando is a beautiful school.

Outside of school what are some of your hobbies?

I am an avid shopper. I like to exercise, go to the beach. My boyfriend isn’t in this state, so I have to travel to see him quite a bit.

Why do you think being a teacher is such an important position?

I once had a student say you are the most influential person in my life. And that says it all. I think that the relationship you have with your parents or your guardian is so different than the relationship you have with a teacher.
And if you listen to your students, you really get to know your students. I think I spend a lot of time with your Student Council kids, so I really know them. You can make a huge impact on their life. And that’s what it’s all about.