My journey in education was not something I knew forever. In fact, although my teachers in middle and high school did have huge impacts on my life later, at the time I simply couldn’t wait to get out of school and be on my own. Becoming an educator could not have been further from my 18 year old brain back then. I spent the better part of my 20’s in the field of journalism and coffee shops and restaurants. And thank goodness I did. In those fields I truly understood what my public education provided me. I saw first hand the impact of being able to listen, speak, write and read. I navigated this professional world where what I produced would determine how I could live that month. It was eye-opening and exhausting and memorable.

I also remember when that discontent feeling began to occur more and more. When I seemed to be searching for purpose but didn’t have the words to define the way I felt. When I stopped being able to connect with those around me and a slow but steady burn began in the bit of my stomach that said “keep looking”. When finding joy became impossible I made a change. What a risky but invigorating feeling! I didn’t have any guarantee, I didn’t have any promise of a future in education but I was drawn to working with students and I was drawn to helping. Armed with only a desire to make a difference and a journalism degree, I began substitute teaching in Florida.

After picking up a long-term teaching position as an 8th grade physical science teacher, I was hired for my first teaching assignment as a “Critical Thinking” teacher. In other words, I filled an allotment suited to my alternate certification I had earned in a rush the previous year. The timing happened to be when the educational pendulum had swung on the side of massive teacher shortage. As a result, with my bachelor’s degree in journalism and a few passed exams under my belt I was deemed fit for the classroom. At the time, that first year felt like a whirlwind. I’ll never forget those students and how they pushed me to learn and grow right along side them. I’ll never forget those late nights I was studying to make sure I understood the content I was just about to teach. I didn’t realize at the time, but those colleagues around me provided me the guardrails I still try to teach by: harmony with others, balance of self, courage to speak up and courage to remain silent, service to students, compassion for others, wisdom to act and wisdom to wait, organization will lead to clarity and always seek joy. Although that was just my first year, those lessons are still ones I strive for today.

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