Dr. Sneha Sharma, Colton High School English teacher, welcomes her sophomore students at the door with a smile and a handshake. Dr. Sharma greets each of her students by name, as she takes care to make sure she gives recognition to each of them. At 25 years old, Dr. Sharma looks more like one of the young faces in her class than what is commonly expected with someone that holds the title of doctor.
“When I first started teaching it was a disadvantage since I appear so young, but my students started to respect me since I’m in the role of their teacher,” said Dr. Sharma.
Dr. Sharma went to high school in Irvine, describing herself as not overly serious about school, she says this was due to the amount of privilege she was allotted in life. It was when she enrolled in UC Riverside to continue her studies that her “bubble was popped.” Through meeting people from different backgrounds, Dr. Sharma realized her privilege was the ability to focus mainly on school and continue her education with the support needed.
“When I went to college it was eye-opening, the issues of others in trying to become successful – this motivated me to become a teacher,” said Dr. Sharma. “There are a lot of challenges students have to face in order to achieve success, I wanted to help.”
After completing her studies at UC Riverside, Dr. Sharma started interviewing for teaching positions at different schools. According to Dr. Sharma it was the City of Colton and Colton High School that stood out; after meeting with staff and seeing the environment she knew Colton was the place for her.
“The first thing I noticed was this sense of community, all the students knew each other, and an element of support was around. This idea that we’re all in this together and to succeed, this sense of community is something I value,” said Dr. Sharma.
Dr. Sharma felt this with the staff of Colton High School who she describes as a group of people who love their work and their students, putting student education and success first and foremost.
With this inspiring work environment and the support of her students and co-workers, Dr. Sharma joined the Organizational Leadership Program Brandman University offered to teachers in the Colton Joint Unified School District that blended online and in-person college experiences.
Dr. Sharma and multiple other teachers joined the program, enthusiastically working with her cohorts in classes that focus on research, leadership in organization, implementing a process, and strategic thinking to achieve goals. Personally, her favorite class revolved around ethics, a class that focused on helping program participants on who they are as educators and what they should stand for.
Dr. Sharma’s hard work and education paid off as she became the youngest person to complete the Doctorate of Education in the Organization Leadership Program at Brandman University.
Despite her monumental achievement, Dr. Sharma reminds her students and herself to stay humble despite success. “Stay humble, what I see sometimes is when you get some success you start to think it’ll be easy, but it’s going to be tough,” said Dr. Sharma. “You have to be your own leader, and never lose faith.”