I began my teaching career in the fall of 1996, under unique circumstances. I graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a BA in Elementary Education in May. In August of that year, I was offered an interview at a local private school. After some contemplation, I decided to decline the interview so that I could get my foot in the door with some local public school systems.
After several months of subbing in two local public school systems, as well as the private school where I had declined the interview, I was called to sub in a fifth grade classroom at Jefferson Elementary School in Ft. Madison, Iowa. In November of 1996, at the end of the third day of subbing in that classroom, the principal offered me a long-term subbing position. The teacher for whom I had been subbing was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I ended up finishing out the schoolyear with that 5th grade class. Within days of the close of the 96-97 school year, the teacher lost her battle with cancer, and I was offered the position. It was with a heavy, yet joyful heart that I accepted the position – what an incredible mix of emotions surrounding that situation.
I taught both fifth and fourth grade at Jefferson Elementary. When Jefferson closed, I moved to Richardson Elementary (still in Ft. Madison Community School District), where I taught fifth grade for a number of years. In 2001, I obtained a Master of Arts in Education Degree from Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin. In 2003 I completed the arduous process of becoming a National Board Certified Teacher. When our Middle School reconfigured and moved to a brand new building, housing 4th – 8th grades, I moved to the new building and taught 5th and 6th grade English Language Arts. It was during this time that I discovered the joy of teaching one subject versus multiple subjects, as I had been while in the elementary buildings. After several years of teaching, loop-style, 5th and 6th grade students, the arrangement of our building changed and I was moved to what became the 6th grade wing, where I taught 6th grade English Language Arts and Social Studies. As much as I loved both subjects, I detested prepping for both (I had become accustomed to prepping for just one subject), and knew that I preferred English Language Arts over Social Studies.
In the summer of 2018, a K-12 Literacy Coach position opened up in the district. I was very interested in the position, but was torn about whether or not to apply. I LOVED my position in the 6th grade classroom: I had great relationships with students and families, I felt competent in my teaching skill set, I worked with a terrific team of teachers (I’ve been blessed with tremendous colleagues my entire teaching career!), and worked under strong administration. After much internal turmoil, making lists of pro’s and con’s around applying for the job, driving my family crazy with trying to make the decision, I finally jumped in and applied. Shortly after the interview, I was offered the position. Accepting that position was, by far, the most pivotal moment in my teaching career.
The past two and a half years have accelerated my learning journey in ways that I could not have imagined. In this position, I have been granted the privilege of seeing our district from a birds-eye view. Had I remained in the sixth grade position, my learning would certainly have continued, but would have been limited… and I would have been none the wiser. In my current position, I am able to work with teachers from kindergarten through 12th grade, and have learned TONS from them! I have been able to advance my own professional learning, specifically around the Science of Reading, and have an entirely new understanding of how learning to read works. It. Is. Complex. I have been able to work with administrators, gaining a whole new appreciation for the job that they do and the pressure that they are under. I am able to work with an amazing team of coaches, and I get to work with students at all grade levels.
It’s hard to say what the next several years will bring, but I am open to the possibilities: back to the classroom, continued coaching within my district, continued coaching in a different venue. I’m confident that my work will continue to center around literacy, no matter the path I pursue.