Early Childhood Educator
I was an Air Force brat for the first seven years of my life. My family was originally from Lincoln, Nebraska, but we lived all over. When my dad was deployed to Vietnam, my mom moved my brother and me back to Lincoln so she could go back to school to finish her degree at the University of Nebraska.
Then one day, my dad’s plane crashed for no known reason, and he was killed. I found out my dad had died while I was at school, so in my second-grade brain, I developed a fear that my mom would die if I went back to school. I refused to go. One day, my teacher, Mrs. Moore, came over to my house to talk to me, and I hid under the dining room table. She was a trauma-responsive teacher before that was even a buzzword. Eventually, she and my mom convinced me to go back to school.
Mom would bring me to school in the mornings early so I could spend time alone with Mrs. Moore, getting acclimated in the classroom. She’d give me little jobs to do to help her prepare for the day, and we’d spend some quiet time talking together. I grew to really love that time with her.
The following year, my mother remarried her sister’s brother-in-law, and we moved to the country about two hours away, so the two families could farm together. However, Mom kept our dentist in Lincoln and every time we went to town, we’d get a milkshake or soda with Mrs. Moore. We kept in touch all through my school years. Mrs. Moore even came to my high school graduation.
I decided to attend the University of Nebraska to study early childhood education, so I moved back to Lincoln. I often stayed with Mrs. Moore and her family. If I needed a quiet place to study, I’d go to her house, and she always baked me cookies. We talked a lot about education and how it had changed. She became my mentor.
I ended up completing a dual program that certified me to teach pre-K through 8th grade, but I always knew I’d end up teaching the little guys. I really like that age because everything is new and different for them. Later in life I earned my master’s degree from Baker University, and I had a professor who taught us about the importance of involving parents early and in a positive manner so that if and when difficult conversations need to happen, there is a strong relationship already formed. His lessons brought back to mind the importance of Mrs. Moore on my life, and I soon adopted that philosophy in my classroom.
Even now I spend the first few weeks of each year establishing classroom culture with my families. I contact families before school starts and introduce myself, and I plan monthly activities where parents come into the classroom and participate. I tell them I need them to share information that will help me meet each student’s needs.
I attended a past student’s high school graduation this past May, and he was so blown away that I came. He kept coming up to me and putting his arm around me and saying he couldn’t believe I was there. In that moment, I felt like Mrs. Moore. I realized having such a personal connection with my students is a way I can emulate the importance she had in my life.
If teaching might be the career for you, I really advise you to get your feet wet early. Whether you plan to teach big people or little people, you really should try to do some sort of practicum or work study to make sure this is what you really want to do. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with people who really care about teaching kids. No one teaches for the money — if so, teachers should be paid like pro athletes! Your heart really has to be in it to be effective at working with kids and families."