Inspiring a Love of Learning
By Shay Breneman
Everyone has that one teacher that stands out in their memories, one they will always look back on fondly as especially motivating and impactful. For many, that teacher is Mr. Steven Lin. Mr. Lin started his teaching career as a fifth-grade teacher in Chesapeake, Virginia and quickly moved through the ranks to become principal of Fishburn Park Elementary School in Floyd county. Starting all the way back with his fifth-grade classroom, dubbed The Clubhouse, Mr. Lin has striven to create an environment of inclusivity in order to help cultivate a sense of belonging and a natural curiosity and wonderment within students. The only rule he has maintained in his classroom is excellence. Mr. Lin believes that if everything is done in line with the pursuit of excellence, in whatever form that may be, then success will naturally follow.
Surprisingly though, Mr. Lin did not always want to be a public educator. He originally wanted to get involved with international law, but during college he changed courses in hopes of pursuing a profession through which he felt he could make a difference and feel good about it every day. Naturally, he fell into teaching. Within his classrooms he aims for a teaching style which focuses on engagement and individualism of learning techniques to help find the best methods of learning for each individual child. He believes that true learning, as opposed to rigid memorization, results from engagement, excitement, and instilling a desire to learn. Mr. Lin tries to always see each child as an individual and more than just a data set, and his effectiveness is evident in his students with whom he forms close bonds and still keeps in touch with today. He has maintained these perspectives and teaching techniques in his new position as principal and is working to implement them school-wide in an effort to provide for children the best foundation on which to develop a love of learning.
Peyton, a former student of Mr. Lin’s, talked about her experience with him as a teacher. Peyton explained, “I had the pleasure of having Mr. Lin as a teacher in the fifth grade when I attended E.W. Chittum Elementary. I was so excited when I found out he was going to be my teacher because everybody wanted to be in his class, and rightly so. Mr. Lin was young, fun and full of energy. He came into class every day motivated to change our lives in some new way. He was always much more than a teacher to us, but a mentor and role model. One of his main goals was to foster unity among all of his students and referred to us as a clubhouse rather than a class. Of all the lessons I learned from Mr. Lin, the one that has stuck with me through the years is his focus on excellence. He used to hold us all to a much higher standard to ensure that we acted as role models for all the younger students. He would always say that ‘the opposite of good isn’t bad. The opposite of good is great.’ He encouraged us to always push ourselves to be better, and never settle for anything less.”
Peyton continued to recall how, “Along with always going above and beyond in the classroom, Mr. Lin was also extremely involved in our community. One of Mr. Lin’s students was fighting Leukemia and was unable to attend school any longer, so Mr. Lin took it upon himself to go the boy’s home every day in order to make sure he was still receiving the education he deserved. He also played a key role in the St. Baldrick’s Day Organization, a foundation dedicated to raising money to fight childhood cancer. Every St. Baldrick’s Day, all the teams involved would raise money and then come together on the day of the event and shave their heads. Each year Mr. Lin would join the team and not only raise money, but also shave his head! He was able to get many of his students to do it too! To this day I still keep in touch with him, and I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to learn so much from such an amazing man.”
Mr. Lin still maintains an active role in his community through groups such as Let’s Talk, an activist group geared toward bringing individuals together to spark open discussions on topics relevant to their society and community, and publishing articles online, both of which are directed towards activism and working towards bettering the community and the world we live in. Mr. Lin does this all in accordance with his own personal motto, “Believe deep down inside that you can save the world and if you can’t, believe you can save someone’s world.”