Thank You For Being Such A Vital Part Of Our Team, Grace. We Look Forward To Sharing More About You So Others Can Get To Know You Better!
Tell us a bit about your backstory and what lead you down your current life path.
I’m currently a sophomore in college, pursuing a degree in Secondary English Education. I hope to become a high school English teacher and eventually a college professor. Growing up, I wanted to be a ballerina, an astronaut, a scientist, an author, a journalist – you name it, I probably considered it at one point. The people who saw me grow up would tell you that I bounced from passion to passion like I was bouncing on the clouds, but English and writing always had a special place in my heart. Teaching came much later. For a long time, I didn’t know I wanted to be a teacher or pursue education. It was the job I took in my senior year of high school, per the recommendation of a friend, that made me realize my passion for teaching and opened the door to what will, hopefully, be my future career.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career?
My senior year of high school, one of my good friends came to me and recommended I apply to a before and after-school care program for the local elementary schools, run by the park district. I went to the walk-in interview, chatted with the two supervisors for a bit, and got an email offering me a position a week later. What I didn’t know was the job, and what followed, would open the door for my love and passion for teaching, and drive me to choose a major in education that very fall. The students I got to work with on a daily basis inspired me, and I loved teaching them, working with them, guiding them, and learning from them. The students taught me, and continue to teach me, so much. A little over three years later, I now get to know those kids and so many more. I have yet to find a job that is so fulfilling, so vibrant, so loving, and that teaches me so much. The students inspired me to teach, and they inspire me to keep teaching.
What is one thing you are most proud of achieving in your life?
This past summer was my second year working as a day camp counselor. I worked with third, fourth, and fifth-grade students. We had one girl in our camp named Charlotte. Charlotte was ten, but you’d think she was fourteen with how she dressed and acted. Both her grandmother and her former teacher warned us that Charlotte was manipulative, she was distrustful, and she was mean. When I met her, she seemed like a kid who felt she was too old to be in summer camp. As the summer progressed, she got to know other campers and counselors and she came out of her shell, slowly. One day, she came to camp and wouldn’t speak to anyone – not her friends, not her favorite counselors. She wouldn’t participate, and everyone left her alone. After a few hours, I sat down next to her and just started talking – about my day, about a silly thing a camper had said, about how I liked her shoes. Eventually, she had something to say, and we went from there. We ended up telling stories about injuries we’d gotten – how I almost broke my wrist, or cut my finger – and funny things Charlotte did as a toddler – she’d eaten an entire tube of grape chapstick when she was about four. We were laughing. A camper who had shown up that day angry at the world was laughing. She got up to sit with her friends shortly after, and she came to me near the end of the day to tell me what had happened that morning that upset her. I never had to ask. The way that day went was a sign to me – I was doing something right enough that a camper felt she could trust me, she could laugh with me, and she could open up. She finished that summer as a (excuse my pun) happy camper, and her grandmother told me that she never saw Charlotte smile so much as when she picked her up from camp. That is one of my proudest achievements.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I am extremely fortunate to have had so much love and support from the people around me. My parents, my former teachers, my friends, and my family have always believed in me and been there to lift me up wherever I needed. I am so grateful to all of them. My grandparents in particular, though, have one way of supporting me that I always notice. Whenever I get a card from them, be it a birthday, Christmas, graduation, or a thinking-of-you card, they always write a little message in addition to the printed one in the card and sign it. Since I started reading their cards and noticing what they said (when I was around fourteen), they always wrote a little note of support for whatever career I had my mind on. When I wanted to be a writer, they wrote, “Keep on writing. You’ve got talent!”. When I wanted to be a journalist, they wrote, “Report to the moon and back! We want to know the next hot thing!” When I decided to become a teacher, they wrote, “The next generation is lucky. They’ll be taught by the best of the best”. I don’t know if they even notice they do it, but I’ve been accumulating their cards for years now. Their unwavering support of me, no matter the career or path I’m on, is something I’m so grateful for. After so many years and so many cards, I know that no matter what I do or where I go, they’ll be in my corner. As long as they know where to address the envelope, there’ll be a card in my mailbox rooting for me.
What do you enjoy most about teaching/tutoring?
I love my students. They push me, each and every day, to be a better version of myself. They teach me more than I ever thought I could learn from people a fraction of my age. I learn how to be better, more compassionate, and more empathetic, from them than any other person or class in my life. You can never stop learning, and when you open yourself up to learning from anyone, you get to know so many unique versions of life different from your own. I can only hope my students learn as much from me as I do from them.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I don’t have a ton of free time nowadays – keeping on top of my schoolwork is close to a full-time job – but when I do, I have a few go-to activities. Almost every morning, I go to the gym and work out. I’m in my school’s marching band, so we have rehearsals most afternoons after my classes end. I love to spend time with my friends, go for walks, write, and read. My guilty pleasure show is Grey’s Anatomy, so I definitely spend too much time watching it.
Is there something exciting you are working on now? What is it and why did you choose to start it?
Right now, I’m working on my teaching certification! I’m about a year and a half into the program, and while a lot of the classes and work so far has been preparation, I start working in classrooms and with my own students very soon! It’s something I’m very excited about and the thought of having my own classroom one day keeps me working hard. I chose to start it because I discovered a passion for teaching a few years ago, and I want to make a difference in the lives of students. Now that my certification is something that is actually in progress, I’m really looking forward to finishing it!
The road to success is difficult and requires tremendous dedication. What advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?
Something that I like to remember when things get tough is the phrase “Do it for you!” Of course, in life, you can’t always do what you want all the time – there are deadlines and assignments and chores that can’t be avoided (I don’t like doing dishes any more than the next person!). But when you’re doing things you enjoy, make sure you’re doing it because you want to, and not because there’s someone or something pushing you to do it. For me, I love going to the gym, but I love it because it’s enjoyable for me. Because of that, I know that I can take a day off if I need to and I can push myself if I want. However busy you are, make sure you have something you do for you!
Please share your favorite Life Lesson quote. How is it relevant to your life?
My favorite quote, and one of the few I apply to my life, is this: “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.” It’s one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten. When I approach an event or portion of my life that seems difficult, or like something I can’t handle, I find myself going back to this advice. Sure, maybe this thing seems hard now, and maybe it would have been easier to handle had I started or joined or begun earlier. But if I wait longer, I’ll look back at this point and ask myself, why didn’t I start then? The best time to plant a tree was definitely twenty years ago, because by now, you’d have a tree! Twenty years, though, was quite some time ago, and you can’t go back. The next best thing, the next perfect time, is right now, because it’ll be the soonest you can see that tree. Who knows, maybe you’ll appreciate watching that tree grow even more than you would’ve if you’d planted it so long ago.
Is there a person in the world with whom you would love to have a private lunch and why? He/she might just see this! 🙂
We’ve been studying a poet named Walt Whitman in my poetry class, and I would love to have lunch with him. He wrote an extremely long poem (120 pages!) that we had to read, and it was very confusing to understand. I’d like to take him out to lunch – Olive Garden specifically – to have him explain his ideas and what he meant. I really like some of the ideas he expresses, but he never wraps it all up at the end. The poem would make so much more sense if he could clarify his meaning and talk me through what his message was.