Appreciating Transition.

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week; a much awaited week by teachers everywhere, full of free food and “thank yous” from many. It is during this week, this very day, that I find it appropriate to write this.

I am finishing my fifth year as an educator this year. I have worked in three schools and districts, in magnets and in neighborhood schools, devoting these last five years of my life to teaching children in Title I schools around the Triangle. There have been times it has been thankless, times it has been overwhelming, and times when it has been inexplicably rewarding.

One day, I really do think I’d like to write a book about all of these moments, but I’m sure if you read my blog you’ll get the gist. 🙂

It is with a heavy, excited, terrified, and overjoyed heart that I share with you that come fall 2017, I will not attend Open House or spend countless hours reorganizing a classroom to house children.

I have formally accepted my admission to Vanderbilt University, and in August, I begin my graduate studies in the field of Education Policy.

I honestly don’t think I can tell you how many tears I shed over this decision — happy tears, sad tears, anxious tears. So happy that I have the opportunity to study something about which I am so passionate at a place that has the strongest program in the nation. So sad that I am leaving a place that I love so deeply; a place full of friends and family and sweet memories. Anxious that I don’t have logistics fully realized yet, like where I will live and when I will move.

It is very accurate (and mildly clichéd) for me to say that I would not be in this current position without the educators in my life. Without Sanchez Johnson telling me that leadership isn’t about titles but about the way you life. Without Alex Drake assigning a crap-ton (technical term) of Brinkley APUSH readings regularly, which probably ultimately prepares me for my moment in graduate school (hindsight is always 20/20). Without Gary Mace pushing me to become a better writer. Without Joan Gale giving me a chance to be a peer mediator/helper, equipping me with skills to listen and communicate effectively in the midst of crisis (for whatever it’s worth, middle schoolers go through a LOT of crises regularly — both silly and serious). Without Lana Siefring sketching pictures in class and reading stories, cultivating creativity and showing me what an outstanding teacher looks like and inspiring me to be one, too. Without educators in my schools having high expectations for me, there’s no way I would have accomplished half of what I have today, and for that I am humbled and grateful.

I found it appropriate to share the news of my graduate studies pursuit on Teacher Appreciation Day, for it is precisely my deep love and respect of this job that is pushing me outside of Lab 209. I love what I do too much to continue to sit idly and watch students not receive appropriate services because of poor legislation and to see my colleagues work long hours at school only to drive to a second job after the bell rings.

To my former teachers: thank you. To my current colleagues, friends, and family in the world of education: thank you. To my students and their families: thank you. I am beyond grateful for your love, your support, your time, and your dedication to bettering the lives of others. May we continue this service for many years to come, in any capacity we can.

A Little Insight to My Heart.

In light of Teacher Appreciation Week starting next week, I share with you an essay I wrote for an application I completed recently. Here are my personal beliefs on education, as well as what has influenced me and shaped me into the teacher I am today. Words cannot express the gratitude I have for the support given me throughout the years, especially this year as I am humbled and honored to represent my school as their Teacher of the Year. I dedicate this to all of my teachers; I wouldn’t be where I am without each of you.

When I was in fourth grade, I hated long division. My confidence in math was low and I dreaded the nights when I had to drag my math book home and do the even numbered problems (why didn’t they put ALL the answers in the back of the book?!). On the brink of tears at my desk and struggling through yet another math worksheet, my teacher called me over to her table, sat with me patiently, and walked me through every step of every problem on the page. She praised my efforts and gently redirected my misunderstandings, and it was in that moment I knew I wanted to be like that. I wanted to help people, I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives, and there was no better way to do that than to become a teacher.

In my teaching career, I have learned many things: this is the most difficult job in the world, yet also the most rewarding. I fully believe that there is no greater feeling than to watch a child grow under your care as a teacher. With every progress monitoring measure, every rigorous text discussion, every project I do with my students, I am filled to the brim with joy and pride for the learning successes that they have made along the way. Watching the ‘lightbulbs’ go off, challenging student thinking, and witnessing students coming out of their shells into a bigger world are just a few of the perks of my job. For each moment I feel exhaustion, there are many more moments like those aforementioned that warm my heart and remind me why I work so hard and stay up so late: watching children grow not only as learners, but as young citizens who are part of a community that extends beyond just my classroom.

It is an incredible honor to teach the children I do. I adore each and every child in my classroom, past, present, and future. I expect their best, and in return they deserve my best — this is the drive that pushes me constantly. I believe that every child can learn and that every child has a gift to share with others. I believe a classroom should be student-centered and filled with real world opportunities for students to show their learning. I believe in transparency in the classroom and letting my students know when I have made mistakes and how I go about learning from those moments.

My ultimate drive as an educator is to instill a love of learning in my students. I don’t just want to teach to standards, but rather create lifelong learners. I am always up for a challenge and am willing to try many research-based practices with my students. I am passionate about curriculum development and had an amazing opportunity as a Kenan Fellow last summer to write an integrated space unit for my students. Currently, I am using a blended model approach to learning in my reading blocks, and my project based learning units include projects with authentic audiences and experiences for my students to prepare them for their futures.

In my time at The University of North Carolina, I went back and forth with a few majors before deciding on education. I thought that choosing teaching came too naturally to me, and I didn’t want to make a rash decision before committing to something so serious. That’s when I realized that this isn’t just a profession that you choose to study; rather, it is a lifestyle that chooses you, and I am blessed beyond measure to have the passion that I have for teaching.

The night before my very first day as an educator, my teacher from fourth grade called me to give me a pep talk. At that moment I truly understood the impact a teacher could have on students, and that is a moment for which I can only hope I will have with one of my students someday.