In response to Vicky Loras’ “What’s your Story?” challenge , I am posting a little of my personal story this morning in hopes that it will shed further light on why I do what I do.
I grew up on the west side of Chicago as the only child of a single mother. There were many issues between my mom and me, especially as I got older and began to test boundaries. Luckily, I had my grandmother and lots of aunts, uncles and cousins there, so when things got weird or uncomfortable, I always had somewhere to go. When my mom got re-married and moved to Louisiana with her new husband and me, things went from bad to worse. I was now in middle school, and it was not long before my classmates and teachers realized that something was not right with me. Without divulging too many of my “family secrets”, I will simply say that I became a ward of the state of Louisiana within a year of our move, and I remained in foster care until adulthood. My transition to and years in foster care are a defining part of my life experience.
Despite the tumultuous nature of my childhood, school was always a refuge for me. For my primary education in Chicago, I attended a magnet academy until I tested into the highly competitive gifted program at A.G. Bell Elementary School. My middle school years were educationally unstable for me, as I was transitioning to foster care, but I chose to attend Caddo Parish Magnet, the #2 school in the Louisiana for my high school years, and it was there that I realized that education would be my ticket to a better life. I was not a stellar student, but was always identified as “academically gifted”, so I never doubted my own intellectual ability. After high school, I began college at the University of New Orleans as a Pre-Pharmacy major. A year later, I realized that I’d always envisioned myself as a teacher from a very young age, but avoided choosing it as a profession for financial reasons. I changed my major to math education, thinking I may not make much money, but I’d be happy and there would always be a job available for a math teacher–and the rest, as they say, is history.
My teaching experience
The first year I started teaching was the 2005-2006 school year. I began the year at a private all-girls school, and then 3 weeks later, a storm named Katrina turned my life upside down. My husband and I had just closed on a new house a month earlier, had two mouths to feed including a 5-month old baby, and no idea what was going to happen next. Ultimately, we returned to our relatively unharmed home and I began my career as a teacher, again. I taught every level of math over the next year, taking whatever position was available to help keep a roof over my family’s head, at one point commuting 90 miles one-way just to get to work. I finally landed at Patrick Taylor Science and Technology Academy in August 2006, 5 months pregnant with my third child. Teaching at a school like Taylor was very natural for me, as it was reminiscent of the schools I’d attended–safe, challenging and filled with sheltered, smart kids. I flourished in this very controlled environment. Surrounded by the “best” teachers and students, I worked hard to stay competitive–my students and I started my blog in 2008 and all the projects and awesome activities we did finally had an audience via the web.
During the Taylor years, I always dealt with a certain level of angst. I was constantly asking: “if the methods I’m using to teach the best and brightest are really great, then shouldn’t they work with ALL kids?” Why try a new teaching method on a student who is already successful? This led me to seek a position at a school that was not a “magnet” or an “academy”, but a “regular” school with “regular” kids. I believed that they deserved the same type of education that I had, or that I gave to the kids at Taylor. This is how I ended up at my current school. I have taught everything here from Remedial Geometry to AP Calculus, and I have found my beliefs to be true–kids are not all that different, regardless of the labels we give them. They all want to learn. They all need a good education to be successful. They all like fun projects and activities. They all can work hard if you expect them to.
This is just a small, yet significant part of my story.