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My Why: Summer Holidays, a Hurricane, and My College Roommate's Mother

My Why: Summer Holidays, a Hurricane, and My College Roommate's Mother

I love summer vacation. I always have. I travel, go on adventures, work jobs I never would choose as a career, stay up late reading, sleep in.  I have since I was a child.  When I became a grown up, and summer became something happening outside my car window on my commute, my soul died a little bit.  A few years after my corporate grind began, my friend called and said she was leaving banking and the west coast and going to be a teacher.  I was impressed.  Steady paycheck, new career, new city…I enrolled in graduate school that week.  Summer Break we meet again.  Who does that?  Who goes into teaching for summer holidays and a stable paycheck?  Seriously, a teacher paycheck?  More importantly, who admits to that in a professional blog. I wish I went into teaching for altruistic reasons, but it was pretty much for summer vacations.   

But this is not the end of the story. Once I started teaching, I found it amazing. I was amazed by these little minds and how they grew. Eventually it became less about what I taught them and more about what they taught me. I get that is hokey, but in the mid-90s I had a small class of students that changed me. I no longer looked to teach them but their kindness and empathy taught me. It was one of those classes that if you are a teacher you know exactly what I am talking about, no more words are needed. If you are not a teacher, it is not something easy to explain, but these 5-year-old children made me want the world to be better. I stopped thinking about summer vacation as a reason to teach (I am honestly embarrassed by that) I wanted to be the best teacher for them, specifically.

Now that I am even more grown up, I can look back and see the powerful women and men that might have influenced me and want to be more like them. Less about summer and more about the idea that teachers and students create a world of sharing ideas. Teachers talk about what is and students have the what could be and trolls get a time out. 

Before I knew it, I was teaching Special Education, and College students wanting to teach little one, and writing curriculum for inclusive preschools and years had passed. And then September 11th happened, and a call from a head hunter, and Hurricane Katrina. In that order. 

After September 11th, I began to think of other things I could do to change the world. Start a conversation on larger level, a more global conversation. The itch for something new was developing. Cue head hunter. I got a call from a recruiter from Plato Learning (it took a crazy interview to find out it WASN’T Play Doh Learning) and the idea of working for an educational technology company scratched the itch. Hurricane Katrina allowed me to work with schools and teachers I had taught alongside, who no longer had homes or schools or grocery stores, virtually. It gave me resources I would never have had access to as a preschool teacher. It opened the door to being able to support students in a way I never ever would have considered. I began to understand that education was critical, and available outside the traditional classroom box. It could happen in ways I may not think of today. 

13 years later, I am the Curriculum Manager for Educator Engagement at Edmentum (formally PLATO Learning) and am dedicated to capturing the voice of teachers. I learn something every day. I am an advocate for the classroom teacher, student, and administrator. I travel every month and my summers are packed with work that I am thrilled to do. I do not lament summer vacation, but look at it as a way to get ready for the new year.

In a strange turn of events my college roommate’s mother plays a big role in my career path as well, but I didn’t know it until recently. Mrs. Oliphant (she will always be that, never Patricia) was a high school principal when her daughter and I were in college. She wielded the power of a high school principal within a tiny 5 foot nothing frame. She had my respect. Even when the education field wasn’t a remote consideration. Almost 30 years later, I find myself working in her world, and our paths cross again, at least virtually. She is now a principal in a charter school, using a product that I contributed to the creation and development of. The 18-year-old me met Mrs. Oliphant who had influence on the 50+ year old me who is still interested in making a difference in students' lives. Maybe it isn’t a straight path, but there is a connection there somewhere.

Edmentum is a company with creative, strong powerful women and men who want to make a difference. The desire to make every teacher understand the power of education, and create a better world for kids is tangible. It is at the core of everything we do.