I was raised on a farm outside of Pittsburgh, PA. Back when my summers were spent baling hay and my winters were spent coloring while my parents inoculated piglets, I never imagined I was in the developmental stages of an adulthood spent in pursuit of breathtaking horizons. Our hilltop is home to all sorts of deer, groundhogs, snakes, bear, and rabbits which I love to see my parents sharing with my nephews just like they did my brother, sister, and me. I remember running out onto the deck when my dad pointed out the Northern Lights from our living room window and stargazing from our trampoline out back.
My wanderlust (and the '89 Corsica my grandmother left me) drove me to the orange and purple sunsets of Clemson University. There, I earned my B.A. in Elementary Education while singing anywhere they'd let me. I sang in Southern Accents (Clemson's coed a cappella ensemble), Womens' Glee, CU Singers, and also as a cantor and in the choir at the church I attended in town.
Trading the foothill lakes for the beach, I started my teaching career as a multi-age 4th/5th grade teacher in a year-round school in Bluffton, South Carolina, just inland from Hilton Head Island. While I had always thought Math was my favorite subject to teach while I was completing my undergrad, it soon became apparent that I was in a minority of teachers who weren't afraid to do dirty, messy hands-on Science lessons. Before long, I was teaching three periods of Science a day until my principal gave me what I considered a promotion: the opportunity to teach Science Lab on the Related Arts rotation in the same elementary school where I had already been teaching! My students and I explored estuaries and aquariums, nature trails and beaches. We filmed movies, planted herbs, and hatched horseshoe crabs. When my principal opened a new school across town, I followed her there to teach Science Lab for two more years.
I absolutely loved teaching Science Lab. At the new school, I started a digital Science Fair in order to level the playing field for our students whose parents couldn't do much to help with their projects. I got to explore titrations and chromatography and DNA extraction with our fifth graders while at the same time making new discoveries with our kindergartners as they used centers to investigate fossil dirt, gravity, flotation, and using balances to find mass. Throughout my years teaching Science Lab to 800-1100 k-5 students per year, though, I was constantly called to have students of my "own." I tried to quiet the calling by starting clubs or teaching math to a group of gifted and talented fifth graders, but it just wouldn't do. Though I had started a Masters Degree in Teaching Science in order to improve my Science Lab lessons, I felt like I could do more with a class to call my own.
In August of 2012, I started teaching fifth grade again. My Masters Research was focused on developing initiative and self-advocacy in my students. I was able to modify the Morning Meeting concept to focus specifically on Science and used it to model, acknowledge, and promote the kinds of agency I was trying to build. My students and I finished the year better than we'd started it; I received my M.Ed. and they not only mastered the fifth grade standards, but they also left my classroom ready to problem-solve in real life.
I looped back to fourth grade and picked up a class I would come to know and love for two years. Though my students became an extension of my family, I had really begun to feel the limitations of living on a teacher's salary. I yearned to travel internationally, and when a friend began organizing a service trip to the Dominican Republic, I asked my principal for permission to attend. My students were so excited for me, they adopted my cause and held a fundraiser to send me to a one-room school--a villager's best attempt at educating his children and their neighbors--armed with over $800 to purchase donations of food and school supplies. Not only was the trip my first opportunity to see blue water, it was an opportunity to see into the hearts of my students, their parents, and my colleagues. They all came along on the trip in spirit. The following year, I turned the tables and helped my administration plan a trip to Washington, D.C. for my students with some financial assistance from the National Parks Travelers Club. They provided Passport to Your National Parks books for all the students on the trip, allowing me to leave a legacy of wandering and wondering when I "retired" in June of 2015.
My desire to witness the beauty our planet offers us led me to plan a move across the country I made plans to see as many National Parks as logistically possible and came to Oregon by way of Rocky Mountain National Park, Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Mesa Verde National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, Sequoia National Park, Kings Canyon National Park, Yosemite National Park, and Redwoods National Park. I saw some of the most amazing vistas in America (and on Earth). And the whole time, the teacher in me just could not take rest. I took photos of evidence of erosion, diagrams explaining air pressure, wildlife, and probability meters. Upon settling in Oregon, I turned my retirement into a sabbatical, working with a STEM curriculum developer and substituting in schools in and around Portland. I loved the opportunity to study the work of other teachers by stepping into their ecosystems for the day.
My work in STEM led me to a position back in the southeast, introducing coding and robotics to a group of learners at an inner-city school in Athens, Georgia. I hadn't necessarily intended to move back to the southeast, but having spent now two years here, I have realized there was a lot I'd missed. As I missed the friends and landscapes I'd left in Bluffton, I sought to move back to the coast and was fortunate to be offered a position teaching in a Montessori program. My training has brought me back to some of my beliefs about education in a really beautiful way. Now not only do I seek to ground my students' learning in concrete experiences just in math and science, but now in language arts and social studies, as well. I am looking forward to growing both as a teacher and a Montessorian as I continue my training. The respect for nature and a universal consciousness that a Montessori approach fosters allows me to blend the content I'm entrusted to impart with the soft skills our learners need in a manner that marries perfectly with my beliefs about the role of education in our present-day society.
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