It happened just after we got married. We were broke, jobless, and trying to pick up the pieces of our plans and dreams of what our first few months of married life were supposed to be like. We ended up back in my hometown and in desperation I applied for a job within the local public school system. That seemed like the best shot for finding a job quickly, and it was only going to be a job that I kept for a little while until my husband found a ministry position, and we inevitably moved. It wasn’t supposed to last 6 years and it wasn’t supposed to change my life, but it did.
In 2011, I was hired at a local middle school as a special education teacher’s assistant. The educational setting came easy to me- my dad is a principal and my mom is a teacher’s assistant. Education is really all I’ve ever known. But I was anxious about working with special needs students. I surprised myself and enjoyed helping students in inclusion settings, and at the end of that school year, I was asked to consider applying for a position as a special education teacher in an adapted curriculum setting. I was confused considering I didn’t have a teaching degree, but flattered that my principal would see potential in me. I agreed to take the state licensing exams, passed, signed up for graduate school classes, and became a lateral entry teacher that following school year. It began.
It wasn’t always easy those first few years, juggling our family, a new baby, working full time, and taking graduate school classes. But I saw how big of a need there was for quality special education teachers and quickly became passionate about seeing students grow and achieve, and figuring out the way to best teach individual students. Have you ever stopped and thought about how your life looks nothing like you planned? Sometimes I’ve just stopped and wondered, “How did I get here?”. I was supposed to be a stay at home mom or work in women’s ministry. And yet, here I was a special education teacher a year and a half after graduating with a completely different degree. It wasn’t the path I had planned out for myself but the Lord used it to mold me, shape me, and refine me.
Being a special education teacher has been one of the greatest joys of my life. I have learned so much about love, grace, beauty, passion, joy, and God from my students. I’ve learned how to see a person for who they really are, not just what you may perceive them to be from the outside. I’ve learned about love in it’s purest form and how to let down guards and inhibitions. My eyes fill with tears as I think back on all of the wonderful memories within those walls of my classroom, of the sweet souls that have sat in those chairs. I’ll now forever be an advocate for students and adults with disabilities. My class sizes have always been small due to the population of students I have taught. In my 5 year career, I’ve only taught 17 different students. But those 17 kids are forever engrained in my heart. It has been my pleasure and joy to invest in their lives. I’m confident that they taught me so much more than I ever taught them.
Today is my last day as a special education teacher. Why? Because as much as I love my students, I love my family more. Tomorrow I start a new season of life as a stay-at-home Mama and a homemaker. I feel such peace, knowing this is the right move for our family. I have desperately tried to balance home and work, but one always suffers as it is just impossible to do both well all the time. It’s time to let go of the good for the better, and so with the dawn of a new day, a new adventure begins for our family.