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December 5, 2012

When I was in the third grade, I recall my teacher announcing, “Okay, anyone who wants to be a teacher, raise your hand and I will pick someone to come up to the front to read off the answers for today’s homework.” Boom, my hand shot up; and not in the polite and/or mature sort of way. My butt was out of my seat, my face was strained and urgent and my arm was wagging around like I was flaggin’ down a taxi to heaven: I knew, in my eight-year-old heart of hearts, that I wanted to be a teacher. For how obnoxious I was being, I am retrospectively surprised that Ms. Emmons called on me; but she did, and in that moment I became a teacher.*

*A teacher of humans. I had been teaching my stuffed animals and dollies for years.

My teacher identity has evolved over the years, my resolve to teach steeled. My schooling at Northern, both in the traditional Education Program and the non-traditional Recreation Program, paired with my work through the Student Conservation Association has allowed me to establish a philosophy that marries all of those pedagogies into one. I am a teacher-geek: I just cannot get enough of the process of learning and sharing, growing and challenging, realizing and empowering.

So it was of great importance to me when, yesterday morning, I received my first (of many) phone calls to fill in for a teacher at Cadillac Junior High School as a substitute. Now I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the classroom already – but I had never gotten paid for it. Holy wah, I have arrived.

The secretary in the office handed me a set of keys and told me where Mrs. Benson’s room is located. Having attended CJHS, I knew the floor plan well and walked up the stairs and walked through the empty hall to Room 110. As I got closer to the right address, a smile began to grow on my face: Room 110 had been Jen Brown’s old room. Mrs. Brown was my 7th grade basketball coach, my 8th grade teacher, my JV volleyball coach for two years, varsity assistant volleyball coach and one of my biggest advocates for the past 12 years running. I was a kid with a lot of energy and she (very) patiently helped me channel that energy into productivity, leadership and success. I always find it difficult to fully articulate her impact on my life; but it is real and deep and continuing. So the space in which I began my sure-to-be lucrative career as a paid teacher felt so appropriate and homey.

Equally funny was the fact that I held class in between old teachers of mine, Mr. Tuck and Mr. Hall, two men who bore the brunt of my funny business during my funny business heyday, otherwise known as Junior High. I walked into Mr. Tuck’s room, the same room where I orchestrated one of the best, most courageous, most egregious classroom takeovers of my funny business career, and he looks up at me with a big, knowing, “how the hell did they let you back in here?” smile. We couldn’t help but laugh. “You know,” he said, “You’re going to get it back 500 times worse for what you put us through here.” Oh, I know that, I know that. And I, truly, cannot wait.

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