BS Elementary and Special Education from SUNY Geneseo and MS School Counseling from SUNY Oswego
My mom was a Home Economics Teacher at Syracuse University for several years. My dad was also a high school science teacher and coach for several years in his early career. One of my older brothers was a career school psychologist and then taught graduate school psychologists at Alfred University. So, I guess you could say education was in my blood!
Inspiration to become a teacher–specifically starting my career as a special education teacher- was solidified in high school when I babysat for a family with a little boy who was visually impaired. He was an incredible little person who taught me more than I ever could have shown him.
Currently I am a high school counselor working with students in grades 9-12. I’ve been in this role for the last 5 years. Prior to that I was the Program Director of an alternative special education program for at-risk high schoolers. For 15 years I was able to use my special education background, along with my counseling experience, to teach, listen, validate, play, and learn from kids who had experienced trauma and poverty and systemic adverse experiences. It was the highlight of my career and an experience that continues to bless me today. Before that experience, I was lucky to teach special education in Alaska, Missouri, and New York.
I am still in education because the good days outweigh the bad ones. Despite all the reasons why I could become disillusioned, I still believe in the power of positive relationships. I believe that all kids have a story and just need a safe space and a person willing to hear it. I believe that behaviors teach us more than words can. I have witnessed the power of kindness and the redemptive quality of forgiveness.
I stay in education because I receive just as much, or sometimes more– than I give. While I have experienced darkness and anger and tragedy….I have also known great love, laughter, and healing. I stay because I think I make a difference and I stay because kids have definitely made a difference in my life.
Of course I see injustice, inequality, indifference, and apathy within the walls of my school. Schools are just a microcosm of society, so we certainly have our share of negativity. I wish I could share some amazing wisdom on how to counter those negative attitudes, but I, unfortunately, do not have a magic cure for that. What I do, personally, is surround myself with like-minded, compassionate, and positive people. I try really hard not to go down the rabbit hole of complaint or keeping score. I simply choose to be happy (except when I’m not, and then I just find a kid who makes me laugh and hang out with them!)
My wish for education is for all stakeholders to listen to each other–to take ego out of the equation and to value the insight and experience of both the teachers and the students. Learning should be fun. Curiosity should be valued. Assessments need to be looked at for what they are– one moment in time. The pendulum swings and what once was old is new again. That seems to be the constant, but as long as we don’t lose sight of the magic and wonder of teaching and learning, we will be okay..