When I was in 1st grade I was enrolled in St. Paul’s Lutheran school. I don’t remember a lot but I remember I loved the daily Bible stories. I remember the Noah’s Ark story and how God placed the rainbow in the sky after the flood as a sign. After school that day I remember riding in our car and seeing a rainbow in the sky. I told my mother that God gave us rainbows after the rain as a sign that He would never cause another flood on the earth again. I can still remember the look on my mother’s face and after a few seconds she told me that wasn’t true. Even at age 6, I was so sure of what I believed. Recently I was thinking back on that wondering why she said that. Now I realize I misspoke. The rainbow wasn’t a sign there would never be another flood. It was a sign of God’s promise to never cover the earth with a flood again. I think I understood the difference back then, I just didn’t communicate it correctly.
Amazing how, ‘as a child’, faith in God and His unfailing love was born in a classroom during a teacher’s Bible lesson. It was during a moment at that same school that I distinctly sensed God calling me to be a teacher. I remember, clearly, sitting in the multi-purpose room, where we had lunch and also watched movies. We had just finished watching a movie and I had a strong desire to become a teacher fill my heart. I never said anything about it to anyone but there was a strong, burning desire in my heart when I thought about being in the classroom. I didn’t realize what it was until many years later in my 30’s in a Bible study. We were discussing the ‘calling’ of Paul after he encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus and others shared their calling. It was then I sensed God’s spirit speaking to my heart and realized the significance of that moment.
In high school I was focused on preparing me for the future. I got involved in U.I.L. contests in Ready Writing, Persuasive Speaking and News Writing. In my senior year I began focusing on my love of English. Thinking about scholarships to college, I discovered if a student qualified to compete in the U.I.L. state competition you automatically qualified to apply for a Ewing Halsell Endowment. I began preparing for Poetry Interpretation working with Ms. Kathy McHenry. I chose a poem in each of the 3 categories. Ms. McHenry worked with me to prepare and arranged for me to practice in front of different classes. I loved 2 of the poems and finally settled on a poem in category 3. I enjoyed poetry and was excited to compete. I won first place in both the District and Regional contests with my two favorite poems. With my least favorite poem I placed 3rd out of 4 but I had met the requirement to apply for the scholarship and was awarded it toward tuition at The University of Texas at Austin.
I decided to major in English and minor in Speech and Poetry Interpretation to become certified to teach in high school. However, the Lord had a better plan. I kept taking classes even during the summer at S.A.C. when I was home and kept having contacts with Elementary age students and realized I had better rapport with that age group. In the last semester of my sophomore year in Austin, I heard that the, under construction, U.T.S.A. (The University of Texas at San Antonio) was opening to juniors in January. I applied to U.T.S.A. to transfer in January and got ready to move home to San Antonio. The biggest change was I was changing my major to Elementary Education and because U.T.S.A. didn’t have a Speech department yet, I examined my transcript to determine which subject for a second teaching field would allow me to graduate soonest. Although I had been an English major, all my coursework so far had fulfilled basic requirements and none of my 12 hours of upper division Speech would even transfer. The subject that plugged in best was History so it became my minor. The burning in my heart was stronger. I wanted to teach more than ever. So, motivated by my strong desire, even with the extra credits, I finished my degree in three years and began teaching at age 21.
Those words sparked a fire in my spirit! In spite of my limited mobility, I consider myself healthy! I feel great 99% of the time! Sure MS slows me down and frustrates me, but, most of my ‘handicaps’ are caused by other people’s opinions and attitudes not mine! I have MS, MS does not have me! I crave inspiration and always have! It’s a gift that what inspires and uplifts me does so for others too! I’m so grateful that Facebook connects me with a wealth of friends and inspiration and ideas to share and an avenue on which to express them! Now I’ve decided to let them overflow onto my blog!
My main problem was employers that discontinued my teaching contract as soon as they found out I was diagnosed with MS or I probably would still be teaching school today.I found a lawyer that agreed to represent me in a mediation with the school district. They offered me $2500. Maybe I should have taken it but I believed I had been fired unjustly. The EEOC, due to the ADA, agreed I was fired in prejudice of my MS. However, the lawyer who didn’t charge me anything for the mediation, would not agree to represent me unless I could give her $5000. I was never able to find a lawyer who would represent me on a contingency and I couldn’t afford one otherwise so I had no other choice but to let it go.
However, God has a strategically ordered plan for my life and the last 13 years since I was in the classroom have been filled with priceless experiences. For example, I became a stay at home mom with my youngest, my daughter, from 8th grade through high school. As a result I was able to take her to and from school each day. On 9/11/01 I took her to school and arrived back home to see the 2nd plane hit the tower. On that emotional day I was able to pick her up in the aftermath and be there when my son drove home from high school that day and speak to my oldest son from college. Just one of the many reasons I know God planned for me, a single mom, to be home full time and even though we had to make it on a fraction of my previous income, He, El Shaddai, the All Sufficient One. made sure we always had what we needed. He is in control and what the enemy “intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.” Genesis 50:20
When I taught with some very rude co-workers my students asked me why I was nice to them when they were so mean to me. I told them because my behavior reflects what kind of person I am and if I didn’t like the way they treated me why would I treat ‘them’ that way.That group of kids I had that year (4th & 5th grade combo class) had experienced a lot of bad treatment both at school and at home. When those same teachers would yell undeservedly at my students I would hug them and tell them that I know how that made them feel and if they saw that happen to a friend that a hug can help. Upon retrospect I realized that’s why God put me in that situation that year and why He gave me those words to say to them.
As a Single Mom & a Teacher I’ll never forget when my son, Chris, was in the 4th grade. Right after the tardy bell he came to my classroom all stressed out! In the regular flurry to get 3 kids to class and prepare to teach, his ‘folder’ had not received the daily parent signature his teacher required of all the students if they didn’t want to walk ‘laps’ at recess! Even more, Chris was the kind of kid, like most are, who dreaded his teacher’s disapproval! He had asked to go to the restroom and came to my room for his folder.
I felt awful because I was the one who didn’t sign and what’s more the folder ended up in my teacher’s bag! I told him I would explain and walk him back to class and arranged for my class. We walked down the stairs and at the bottom of the stairs right by the door to his classroom, he stopped and told me that his teacher still would get ‘mad’! I will never forget what he did next. He sat down on the stairs and looked up to heaven and said, “Jesus, please come back now so I don’t have to go back in the classroom!”
I wanted to cry! I hugged him and reassured him that it would be okay. I know he and I survived that and I don’t fully remember what happened although I’m sure he does! Both of my boys survived 4th grade in her room. She was an excellent teacher in spite of her strict legalistic approach to classroom management. It was difficult to balance being ‘co-worker’ and ‘parent of student’ and we had our unfortunate clashes due to the difference in our personality. However, we learned in that ‘sandpaper’ experience and grew as sisters-in-Christ.
Never-the-LESS, this incident made me more sensitive to both my students & their parents as this daily ‘parent signature’ routine was school-wide. As a result of this experience, my perspective as a teacher on classroom management and expectations changed; as well as a parent! I evaluated the goals of routines and responsibilities given to my students and my children too.
I’m thankful that my Lord Jesus balances His Expectations & Consequences with Mercy & Grace.
My heart always aches as the new school year begins. I will always miss teaching school! But I have to trust God in His plan for me. When I was forced to go on Disability in 2001 as a single mother of 3 to support, I cried “Lord, You called me to teach! How can I fulfill my calling now?!?!” He reassured me, ” for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.” Romans 11:29. In His Faithfulness, El Shaddai, the All Sufficient One, made it possible for me to support my children as He opened the door for me to teach online for 7 years! When that chapter ended I had to adjust once more but now I have been blessed to have the privilege of moderating Online Bible Studies for my church! I just realized as once more I ache over the start of another school year that this responsibility at CBC is another manifestation of the Faithfulness of God “for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. Romans 11:29! God Bless All the Teachers and Students at the Start of a New School Year! ♥
On October 4, 1977 I began my very first teaching job at Stephen F. Austin Elementary School as a 2nd grade teacher. After graduating from UTSA in August, I began the nerve-racking process of interviewing for jobs. Called by God to be a teacher at the age of 6, I was so eager to begin teaching that I finished my degree in 3 years. I got several interviews for positions to no avail. However, as the school year started, back when it started after Labor Day, and the weeks passed I was becoming very discouraged. I had wanted to teach in one of the suburban school districts where I had student taught near my house. However, on Friday, September 30th, I got a call from a friend who worked in the UTSA Education department placement office asking if I would be interested in teaching in the inner city San Antonio Independent School District. By then, I wanted to teach so much I jumped at the chance and drove downtown to the district office to interview. I was asked if I would be willing to get my bilingual endorsement through a district program which I readily agreed to do. An appointment was set up with the principal for Monday morning. After I interviewed I was offered the job. He explained that an overflow of 1st & 2nd grade students made it necessary to form a new 2nd grade class and the current 2nd grade teacher would form a class of half 1st and half 2nd grade students. Then he asked me when I could start. With the complete naivete of a 1st year teacher who was eager to get started, I said that the best way I could see would be to start the next day!
Stephen F. Austin Elementary was in a 100 year old building with no air-conditioning and radiator heat. The classrooms were huge with 20 foot ceilings. Half of the campus housed 2 kindergartens, 2 1st grades, 1 1st-2nd grade split, 1 2nd grade, 1 3rd grade, 1 4th grade & 1 5th grade. Half of the campus housed 14-18 year old mentally-retarded students who were bussed in from around the district. All 200 students shared 1 bathroom, 1 cafeteria and 1 playground. The surrounding neighborhood was made up of what were once beautiful victorian-style houses but were now run-down multiple family dwellings. The school was the heart of this low-income Hispanic community.
On my first day I was shown room 4. Inside the bright yellow classroom with original slate chalkboards there was 1 teacher’s chair, 1 student-height rectangular table, and 2 student desks. There was a large shelved walk-in closet for supplies but there was not one single piece of paper, pencil, or book. I had brought a notepad and pen. I moved the table and teacher’s chair to the front of the classroom. I was told that the students would be moved down from the other classroom later in the morning with their desks, books and supplies. I think I was in shock sitting in that room, but, before I could think too much, they brought me a new student! Sweet Sophie, my very first student, was a blessing as she kept me focused so I couldn’t get nervous as I was so busy making sure she felt comfortable. Looking back on that I’ve wondered what on earth must have been going through her mind when they brought her into that room that day, but, one thing for sure. I’ve never forgotten my very first student! A few minutes later 20 students with their desks full of books and papers were moved in and their teacher had duplicated worksheets for the day. That first day was a blur for me. I do know I made it through those first few days developing what eventually earned me the title of Queen of Improvisation! My sister-in-law, Cecie, had taught for three amazing years and stopped teaching and graciously offered me all her teaching materials. So after those first few days of managing with next to nothing, we went to Houston and got them and on Monday morning of the next week I had something to put in that walk-n closet. During my 3 years at that school I obtained such a variety of pieces of furniture and painted them in bright primary colors and many other materials. From that experience of nothing in that classroom on that first day , on the last day I was there I filled that closet for the summer. Teachers would come and ask if they could have things and I told them I wasn’t going to leave it vacant for the next teacher who came into the room! The adventure had just begun!