My 51st birthday is in three days, yet I have only been a teacher for three months. Until recently, my life is best described as making life decisions as opportunities presented themselves without clear-cut goals. I finished high school early, had no idea what I wanted to do for a career, and completed college with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History and French. Immediately after graduation, I worked in the finance industry, where I was able to complete a diploma in Business Administration. Then, just before I turned 30, I got married (for the third time), started a family, and found a new career in education. Bit of a hot mess!!!
After my marriage failed, I decided that I needed to become financially independent, and that meant going back to school. Additionally, other factors helped me to make the decision to further my education, specifically, to become a teacher. My inspiration to apply to grad school was my older brother, who had recently completed his Master’s Degree in Adult Education, and my mother, who finished her Master’s Degree in Counseling when I was a young adult in college. Most importantly, working in a high school for a decade allowed me to discover my passions and joys, which led me to think about where they intersect with my skills and abilities. I am organized, independent, and creative, and I enjoy working and interacting with students on a daily basis, helping them to overcome obstacles or achieve success.
As a result, I applied for admission to graduate school, in the Education department, without choosing a specific content area so that I could keep working while figuring out what subject I wanted to teach later. Based on my college transcript, I was not sure I would be accepted, but in January 2020, I received my acceptance letter! I was overjoyed and anxious at the same time because although the door to a fabulous career had been opened to me, I would be in classes with actual teachers (probably much younger than me), and that prospect was daunting. Doubts flooded my brain. Would I be able to handle the coursework? Would I be able to engage in meaningful discourse with my fellow grad students? How in the world would I write a thesis paper? Would I have enough time, as a single working mom, to complete assignments?
Classes would start in the fall, so I had time all summer to prepare and psych myself up for my academic adventure. However, unexpectedly, that same summer, I met the love of my life online after having been encouraged by a friend to start dating again (UGH!). Honestly, I had given up on the idea that I would ever find someone who truly loved me, just for me. All my life, I had made terrible decisions with respect to men and feared that I would just end up used and neglected all over again. However, this time around, I approached dating differently: I made a list of high expectations; I included my best friends in my dating process to not only hold me accountable but to ensure that I was not overlooking any red flags; and I gave myself plenty of time to process my feelings. My new boyfriend shared many of my hobbies and activities, and over the past 2.5 years, we have discovered new ones together. He fully supported my studies and encouraged me every single day. When I received “A” grades on my first assignments, he was incredibly proud of me and extremely happy for me. Over the next two years, I juggled balancing my kids, work, grad school, my romantic relationship, the pandemic (let’s not forget about that!), and my new favorite activity with my boyfriend: cycling.
With unconditional love from my partner, I felt safe and secure in our relationship, which brought me joy, comfort, and excitement! With constant positive feedback from my academic advisor and my peers, my confidence grew, which resulted in the hope that I would become an English teacher one day (my advisor thought that I was an excellent writer and suggested that I consider teaching high school English). My only concern, as I neared the end of my graduate program, was “would I be able to find a teaching position without a specific license?” Eventually, I achieved a 4.0 GPA; graduated with my Master’s Degree in Education; and, after applying nervously for a few jobs and preparing for interviews, received a position teaching English to grades 9 and 10 in the high school where I already worked. As a result of setting clear goals, working hard, and being true to myself, I found my “dream job” and the man of my dreams.
One of my most challenging obstacles in life has been to shift my mindset about being such a late bloomer in almost every area of my life: motherhood, romance, career, mental health, wellness, and fitness. By looking at my maturity as an advantage rather than a disadvantage, I have been able to overcome my insecurities, forgive myself for the transgressions of my youth, and truly live my best life. Most importantly, I have discovered that it is NEVER too late to start over, start something new, begin again, or step into the unknown. Everything that I have endured and overcome in my life has shaped me into the fierce woman that I am now: determined to make a positive difference in a student’s life, as well as teach grammar, writing skills, and critical thinking.
When I worked in the high school office, every day, I wore a necklace inscribed with the word “Inspire” because I wanted to help students to do their best, achieve their goals, learn new skills, and be true to themselves. A month ago, after finishing our unit on the Holocaust, one of my students presented me with a plastic baggie: inside was a necklace with the word “Hope,” which I now wear every day that I teach. This kind gesture made me verklempt because it symbolizes the many ways students (including my own children, whom I have the privilege of teaching) have demonstrated that I have made a positive difference in their lives. Lastly, true love is worth waiting for, even if it takes half a century. Without a doubt, I knew I had found my soulmate when he played “Pomp and Circumstance” on the drive to my graduation ceremony, bought a fancy leather chair for my teacher’s desk, helped me set up my first classroom, and used all my favorite words as much as possible. Although he refuses to embrace the Oxford Comma, I love him unconditionally and bought us almost matching t-shirts: “Oxford Comma Preservation Society” for me and “Anti-Oxford Comma Club” for him. Being a late bloomer is not embarrassing; it represents an opportunity to INSPIRE others to HOPE for their BEST LIFE and make their DREAMS come true, eventually.
By Ms. W
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