I graduated from high school with low confidence in anything other than my ability to be a good athlete. Having been a state qualifier in wrestling and a co-captain of the state runner-up soccer team my sophomore year, I put all my eggs into the basket of athletics. The only problems were that nobody can be an athlete forever and that while I was good relative to my peers, I was not good enough, or passionate enough about it, to make it my life.
However, by the time I was twenty-five I was starting to come into my own as a student. I had a bachelor's degree in history and a master's in economics and had spent two years enlisted in the Air Force doing industrial hygiene and applied environmental science. I didn't understand at the time that I had already accomplished a lot and had made strides in my career, to the degree that one can when he doesn't really know what he wants to be when he grows up.
I got out of the Air Force and was immediately hired as a research analyst in the energy industry. At this time, I taught myself structured query language, became an enthusiast of energy economics and energy science, and enjoyed brief stability, only to realize that I wasn't directly helping people, and that that mattered to me.
Not feeling fulfilled in my career, I used my military benefits to become a licensed secondary English teacher, which wasn't a natural fit for me. I had low confidence, was intimidated by the possibility of an unruly classroom, and was scared to speak in front of crowds. I overcame it though. My first year, I was basically a year-long substitute at a school with a large at-risk population. I was immediately challenged, but by the time I had been in the room three months, the students were on my side and were heads-down with their noses in books doing their best to learn.
Then I transitioned to another school with a high at-risk population. I came into the situation with a learning mindset and gobbled up all the teaching tips Stevi Quate, my peers, and my school principal had to offer me. Over the final four years, I was oftentimes the only sophomore English teacher, and there were never more than two, of which I always had at least two-thirds of the sections. My first year, sophomores saw high single-digit reading and writing growth. My second year, their growth was double-digit. My third year, their growth was double-digit, they made AYP, and the school was removed from turnaround status despite low math scores and middling freshman and junior English scores. To be fair, the social studies teacher was also brilliant and made a point of incorporating reading and writing into his classroom as well, and my other colleagues were all good teachers who obviously contributed. But I cannot help but think I played a prominent role in getting the school off turnaround status.
My five years as a high school English teacher taught me some things about myself. First, I was a good teacher and only getting better. I excelled mostly through hard work and desire to learn from peers and others in the industry -- not through any natural ability to teach. Second, and on a more negative note, I learned that the nine to ten months of a year during which a teacher is teaching is really hard on one's family. I poured my heart into it perhaps to the detriment of my family life. After my fourth year as an English teacher, I experienced family tumult ending in divorce, and my last year in teaching I realized that my three-year-old son who was experiencing emotional difficulties needed me more than my students did. I left teaching after a rough couple of years at home.
My son is eight now and doing much better. I have been a project manager and an analyst in the Medicaid industry for three years now, and while I like the work and am good at it, and while I enjoy the challenge of the industry, it is time for me to get back into what I am good at and love -- teaching.
As my journey continues, one thing I now understand that I am naturally good at is learning. Acutely aware that my initial assumptions about any unfamiliar topic are almost always wrong, I have matured into a place of open-mindedness and a desire for lifelong learning. I read about science in my spare time and am especially fond of botany, genetics, astronomy, earth sciences, and physics. I also enjoy brushing up on the health, energy, and education industries, and I am a hobbyist writer. It is my hope to help students find their passions and become proficient, self-aware learners along the way.
I miss the teacher-student connection and watching students grow under my tutelage, both as intellects and as kind and caring human beings. What I can promise any principal who will take a chance on me is that I will work my tail off to be the professional I was before and to repeat the kind of feats and accolades I accomplished the last time around.