Through a softball scholarship and generous financial aid, I was able to attend The George Washington University, where I pursued my B.S. in Chemistry with a Forensic Science concentration. I had these great delusions that I would either go into research or become a famous forensic scientist! About two years into college, I realized that was never going to happen! For one thing, the field of forensic science was booming and extremely competitive and I just did not have the passion that I felt was necessary to break in. Second, let's face it, advanced chemistry is hard!! Despite the many challenges I faced, I did complete my degree in Chemistry and now had to figure out what I was going to do with it!
I worked as a veterinary technician while in college and when I returned to Charlotte after graduation, this seemed to be the best option for me until I figured out my next steps. After working at the vet for a while, I thought I might as well make some extra money on my off days and so I applied to be a substitute teacher! Yes, I can imagine the teachers reading this sentence and groaning, thinking sarcastically that I am exactly who you want in your classrooms while you are out! However, before you roll your eyes too much, I knew from that first day I stepped on campus that I was meant to be in education. I came alive, which was something that had not happened to me before and something that brought back fond memories of that magical chemistry classroom. I did both jobs for a while, but when the next school year rolled around, I knew that I had finally decided what I wanted to do with my Chemistry degree! Fortunately for me, Charlotte was facing a major teacher shortage in certain subject areas and in Title 1 schools, and so they had a "Lateral Entry" program, the purpose of which was to attract people from outside of education into the classroom by letting them complete their teaching license while already teaching in their own classroom. So basically, I walked out of the veterinary office into my own high school classroom!
Yes, I did face some very interesting challenges, such as teaching chemistry and forensic science without calculators, having 33 students in one class and 4 in another, and having to set up labs without having all the materials I needed. However, I also grew more as an individual and a professional than I could have ever asked for. My students were amazing, my colleagues were supportive, and I was part of a school that was throwing all of the statistics about the "achievement gap" out of the window! We had a great community built, our students were passing the state exams with record-breaking scores in math, biology, history and other areas and they were going off to college in record numbers and teachers were actually wanting to stay at the school from year to year, rather than frantically trying to get out! I eventually completed my teaching degree and about that same time, district organizational changes resulted in the need for a full-time Technology Facilitator in every school and my principal asked if I would do this for our staff of roughly 120 teachers and 2,000 students. I was thrilled at the opportunity as I had been the Technology Contact part-time for the previous two years. This presented a totally different set of challenges, which I won't get into here!
Amidst all of this, I found my soulmate, who was a phenomenal Algebra and Geometry teacher at the same school, and who I believe was developing "growth mindsets" in her classroom before it was even given this term, as evidenced in the 100% student growth in all her classes on the state tests! We got married at Lake Panorama and ended up relocating to Iowa in the summer of 2013 after she accepted a position with DMPS. Just before deciding to move, she had urged me to apply for a Master's program in Instructional Systems Technology through the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, which is something I had been putting off. I finally did apply for the Fall 2013 semester and was accepted, so when we moved, I took the opportunity to take a year off to begin this program. After that year, I took a job as the Technology Specialist for Newton Community School District, where I really got to put some of my new learning into practice in this newly created position. I finally completed my Master's this past summer and at that same time, saw this fantastic opportunity to work as an Instructional Technology Coordinator with a newly created Office of Innovation! Though sad to leave Newton after only one year, I was honored and thrilled to be offered this position, to join such a welcoming and innovative team, and to begin this school year with Des Moines Public Schools!