Gary and me at Virginia Beach

Gary and me at Virginia Beach

As usual, this summer is zipping by, and I can’t seem to slow it down. We have a busy schedule, which means it’s not likely I will accomplish all of my summer cleaning goals, but we are creating some great memories, and that’s much more important. As a teacher, I am extremely grateful for my time off. There are many who make comments about how teachers have it made having summers off, but I can tell you, it is necessary. After spending day after day with 22 or more students, being not only teacher, but many times a nurse, mother, counselor, and more, we are exhausted. I love my students, but just as parents are ready for their kids to return to school in August, we are ready to return them to you in May. We spend time with our own families, catch up on all the work we missed out on throughout the school year, plan for the new year, read education-related material, and come back ready to tackle a new year. If it weren’t for summer break, I would be incredibly stressed, and I wouldn’t be the best teacher I can be. Come August, I will be eager to welcome a new group of students. Which brings me to one of the things that brings both excitement and added work this summer…

I will be starting the 2013-14 school year in a new position! I have taught third grade for the past six years, and have enjoyed almost every moment of it. I had considered moving up to junior or senior high English, but a few years ago I would have had to return to college to add to my license. In more recent years, the state of Indiana changed the law regarding some licensing. Someone who already holds a teaching license can now add to that license by passing the Praxis test in that area. Last spring I decided to take the test so I could add English/Language Arts grades 5-12 to my license. I paid the ridiculous fee, studied for over a month, and took the test. I have to admit, it was difficult. Having been out of college for eight years, one forgets the names of authors and styles of literature. I had to wait three weeks after the test to get my results. I was up bright and early the morning the results were available online (and I paid an additional $30 to get those results a few days early), and found that I had passed! I was so excited, and so proud. I had put in the work, and it paid off. Now I had to wait for a position to open.

In April, I learned of the retirement of the eighth grade English teacher, and immediately applied. I was so thrilled at the possibility of focusing on English all day. English is my strength, and I enjoy helping kids discover the love of reading, their potential at writing, and the intricacies of the English language. I had taught English at the prison before becoming an elementary teacher, and I loved every minute of it. I was also intrigued by the idea of working with older students. Having been a youth group leader at church, and a cheer coach years ago, I know that I like being around adolescents. This was the job for me. I went through the first interview in April, and I was a nervous wreck. I kept thinking that here I am, 46 years old, and still interviewing. After that interview was a long wait. This month I had a second interview, and then received the news that I had been selected for the job. I was ecstatic…and a little nervous! I love working at Wm. Tell, and have some amazing friends there. I have learned so much from my boss, and consider her a friend, as well as a mentor. On the other hand, I had to take this opportunity. I immediately got to work studying eighth grade standards, reading texts, and moving. Moving a classroom is no small task. I began by packing up my room at Wm. Tell. I had invested a lot of money in books and materials, and those items have been put in storage containers for my daughter, Bethany, who is currently an education major. Everything else was either left for the new third grade teacher, or moved to the junior/senior high. My next big project is to get my new room cleaned out and reorganized. That begins this week.

Along with preparing for a new grade level, my husband and I have three trips this summer. Last week, we returned from our family vacation to Virginia Beach. My step-daughter and her family live there, so along with enjoying the beach, we were able to spend time with family. Bethany and Addison went along, which was so enjoyable. Bethany hadn’t been on vacation with us in five years, and it was fun to have her along. The weekend of July 4, Gary, Addison, and I are taking a short trip to Northern Indiana and Chicago. The highlights of that trip will be visiting family friends at their house on Dewart Lake, dinner with my cousin in Chicago, visiting my niece Erin, and attending the Cubs game.

At the end of July, Gary and I will be venturing off to Atlanta for a fitness conference: Atlanta Mania. I am really excited about this conference, but also slightly terrified. We will be spending four days working out…all day. And these workouts will be way out of our comfort zones because the purpose is to learn about various types of exercise, and to become better educated on fitness. I am going to become certified to be a Tabata Bootcamp trainer, and Gary will be certified in teaching Spinning. We are attending this conference with several instructors from Everbody’s Gym, so hopefully we will be able to work a little fun in with the torture. Since my knee is still injured (UGH!!!), I am looking forward to learning about some different workouts. Without running, I have struggled to stay as active as I need to be.

No wonder summer is marching by at an accelerated rate! Along with these big events, I also have physical therapy twice a week, and have some other obligations. I am not complaining because I appreciate that we are able to do it all. We have incredible friends and family to share our time with us, and are blessed to be healthy so that we can be involved in fitness. I am thankful every day for the opportunities we have, and that we are no longer afraid to take those opportunities, even if they don’t always work out. I am thankful for summer.

Who is your mentor?

The other morning, I happened to catch a view minutes of The View.  Sometimes that show gets on my nerves because they all talk at the same time, but on Monday, each of the hosts had a segment about her mentor.  Shari’s was a spiritual mentor, the minister of her church.  Whoopi’s mentor was a director/producer who helped her get started in the business by introducing her to the right folks, and by casting her in movies.

As I listened, I began to consider whom I considered to be my mentor.  I couldn’t come up with just one name because I feel that I have different mentors for different purposes.  The first person who came to mind was Donna Fenn, a dear friend of mine who died about five years ago from cancer.  Donna was an amazing lady.  She was an incredible teacher, a down-to-earth friend, and someone who made me laugh hard and often.  She is one of the reasons I became a teacher.  My two older daughters were blessed to have Donna as a teacher, and I was fortunate enough to spend time in her classroom, both with my girls, and as an observer when I was working on my teaching degree.  I couldn’t wait to have a classroom and to be able to teach with Donna.  Unfortunately, that never happened.  Donna’s cancer was aggressive, and in much too short a time, took her life.  Her death was truly tragic because she had so much to give and brought such light into our world.  I have missed Donna every day.  I miss watching her with my girls; I miss going to church with her; I miss her laughter when she did something silly; I miss learning from her.  Anytime something comes up at school that I struggle with, I wonder how Donna would have handled it.  I think about how she loved and nurtured children.  I strive every day to be just half as good as she was, and for that, I am a better teacher.  She helped shape the person I am today.

Two others whom I consider to be my mentors have also lost battles with cancer.  One was my Aunt Loretta, and the other was my Great Aunt Martyne.  These ladies were so very special.  They were the type who made me feel better about myself just by being around them.  When I went through hard times, they never judged me, they just continued to love me.  They both enjoyed life, and cherished their families.  I want to be the type of person who uplifts others.  I want to make those whom I come in contact with feel better about themselves after having spent time with me.  I really don’t know how to go about doing that; I hope it is a gift passed down to me by my dear aunts.

I also have running mentors.  My friend Kim is my ‘go-to’ girl for running advice.  She is the one who kept encouraging me to just get to that first mile.  She has been an amazing supporter, and I hope that I, too, can always give her the support she needs.  My boss and friend, Laura, was also a major influence in my early running.  I would whine to her that I would never be able to run very far, and she would tell me that she knew I would run a half marathon.  She was right.  Her belief in my ability helped carry me through when I didn’t really believe in myself.  My husband is an amazing running mentor.  Had he not first laced up his running shoes, I would never have taken my first step.  Seeing this man, who is 16 years my senior AND has an artificial knee, get out and start to run forced me to drop all of my excuses and give it a try.  There are times when running is so difficult for him it would be easy to just give up, but he keeps on getting out there, and that keeps me out there.  When I am feeling ultra whiny and wondering why I ever thought I could call myself a runner, I think about the effort Gary puts in, and I keep putting one foot in front of the other.  My running mentors, along with the girls who listen to me whine while running – Jackie, Kassi, and Jennifer – are so appreciated.  I probably don’t tell them that often enough, so hopefully they’re reading!

Doing the right thing.  It seems like an easy concept, but it isn’t always that easy, is it?  Sometimes we just get pissed, and doing the wrong thing is our natural reaction.  Sometimes we are tired, and doing the wrong thing is just easier.  Sometimes we just don’t like certain people, and THEY do the wrong thing, so why should we do the right thing?  I struggle with this (shocking, I know!).  So I happen to have a ‘do-the-right-thing’ mentor.  And I also happen to be married to him.  My husband has made me a better person.  He honestly lives his life by doing what is right, even when no one is looking.  He is the most selfless person I know.  He is always willing to help someone, even when it is most inconvenient.  When I have a decision to make, I know that I can count on him to lead me in the right direction, even when sometimes that means going the opposite way that my selfish self wants to go.  Gary does all of this, but not many people know about it.  One of the most impressive qualities about my husband is that he is always serving others, but wants no recognition for that service.  There are many people who help out their communities, but every time they do something good, they also have to have their pictures in the newspaper so everyone knows about it.  Not Gary.  He works behind the scenes.  He does it because it’s the right thing to do.

I cannot list my mentors without listing my sister.  I would consider her my faith mentor.  She is eleven years older than I, but rather than think that I was just an annoying little sister (which I was), she has always been so good to me.  She has been my biggest cheerleader, no matter what I have tried.  I have always said I could run a house of prostitution, and she would still say I ran the best one around.  My sister has amazing faith, and it has carried her through some dark times.  The strength she has through her faith in God is incredible, and has, in turn, made my faith stronger.  My sister is also the kindest person I know.  She is just genuinely sweet – though I have seen a little spunk in recent years.  I appreciate my sister and her love so much.  I hope that I have been able to show that love and support to her.  She is a great mom, aunt, and wife as well.  Much of who I am is because of who she is (Feel free to quote me on that !).

Who is your mentor?  Do you have that one person in your life who has influenced you, or are there many?  Who do you mentor?  I don’t know of anyone who would consider me a mentor, but I hope that I can make a difference in others’ lives.  I love my nieces and nephew dearly, and hope that in some small way, I have served as a role model to each of them.   I hope that Donna and my aunts knew how much they meant to me, and that Kim, Laura, Gary, and Bobbi know the influence they have had on my life.  I know that there will be other mentors as I continue on my journey.  I would love to have a writing mentor.  I secretly consider Kristen Armstrong to be a mentor, though I have never met her.  She is a runner, who has the perfect career of getting to write about her running and her faith.  I love her open, honest style of writing.  Maybe she’ll mentor me…

My Sister, Bobbi and I…