Being an Inspirational and Self-Loving Educator: Deja Simley ’23

Deja Simley graduated from Denison in 2023 and was an Educational Studies major. When she first came to Denison she didn’t expect to become a 3rd grade Associate Teacher at Pace Academy. As a first-year at Denison, Deja thought she would become a social worker after graduation as she came in as an Anthropology and Sociologoy major with a minor in French. “I knew that I had a passion to help people, especially children,” she said. Deja knew she wanted to work with kids, but her career aspirations changed overtime as many students experience. 

Switching to a major in educational studies was an natural decision for Deja as she loved taking Dr. Karen Graves course, “Legal Issues in U.S Education” that changed her mind on what she wanted to do for the next few years. “A light sparked within me that education was my calling, and I couldn’t turn back,” she said about taking the class. Deja reflects back on how important her relationships with the education professors were and her experiences teaching second grade in Newark City Schools helped her reach the point where she is now.

Deja describes how her professors inspired her to teach today, “They not only gave us advice while studying and learning with them, but they were also a guiding force that believed in us and valued us as educators and the work that we wanted to do to make future changes in the system.” Deja believes that following your heart is the most important thing to do when making decisions about how to navigate your career and to not forget who you are.

As a current first-year teacher at Pace Academy, Deja says, “If you are trying to go into teaching, just know that the system is flawed and is also continuously changing. As long as you are passionate about teaching and you are doing this career for a bigger purpose, you will love it. There will be extremely hard days, but the good days definitely outweigh the bad.” Despite the education system in the U.S. being imperfect, if you care about the kids and teaching the next generation, it will all be worth it as Deja explained.

Taking time to prioritize and care for yourself is something that Deja holds close to her heart. As a teacher it’s important especially with long and challenging days. Deja said, “Don’t be afraid to fail! The most successful people have failed multiple times which led to their success in the long run, nothing is perfect, and you will achieve what you work hard towards no matter what.” Educators have an important role in society and Deja is an inspiring alumni who embodies a wonderful teacher that has a strong passion for the hard work she puts forward!

By Sarah Wuellner
Sarah Wuellner Peer Career Fellow: Social Impact, Education and Government