Saturday, December 26, 2015

Potential and a Dream

     The following is an excerpt from the story of a little girl with huge dreams. It’s the story of a young girl growing up in situational poverty and overcoming incredible odds because of the love of her teachers. It’s the story of teachers seeing and nurturing the innate gifts and talents given to me. It’s the story of my dreams of being a teacher and making a difference in the world coming true.
    June 2015 marked the 50th anniversary of the Headstart program- a program established to close the learning gap for kids growing up in poverty. I was one of the first kids that attended Headstart in Salt Lake City, Utah.
It was a pilot program, and I vividly remember the summer that I attended. Many of our legislators question the funding for preschool programs and ask if it makes a difference. I want to shout, “Yes! It made a difference to me!”
    With my hand in tow, my young mother walked with me into the classroom. I was scared and excited at the same time. I had never before been to a classroom- so immense in size, colorful, and filled with other kids my age doing all kinds of activities. Kids were painting, playing with toys, and listening to a story on the far-side of the room. Headstart was a magical place!
There were paints, places to play, arts and crafts, field trips, stories, and songs like “The Wheels on the Bus”. We made musical instruments, parade hats, and enthusiastically marched on the sidewalk around the school as parents and onlookers cheered for us. Those artifacts and the vivid memories of my mind are evidence that I was happy! I loved learning and couldn’t seem to quench my thirst for more knowledge! School was a place of wonder, exploration, discovery, and love. I don’t remember any one teacher. But, I do remember many grown-ups helping me and other children make marvelous creations and reading books. Oh, the books! Headstart was the foundation that I needed. I knew that I wanted to grow up and be a teacher. After all, I’d been “playing school” and teaching my cat and my two brothers my whole life! I just didn’t realize how hard it would be to make my dreams come true.
    Elementary school were years filled with more adventure! My elementary school was a new open concept school, and the teachers were team teachers- a revolutionary practice of the time. Consequently, I had many forward-thinking teachers and huge spaces for learning. I have so many good memories like Mrs. Miller teaching me how to read, Mrs. Ramsey singing, “I’m Bringing Home A Baby Bumblebee,” Mr. Petersen doing science experiments, and Miss Ohngren letting me write plays and having my peers perform them. I even have great memories of my principal, Mr. Hansen, teaching a small group of us 4th graders advanced math. Long before all of the buzzwords in educational circles today, my teachers provided me with many opportunities to create, to choose, and to work at my own pace. I loved school!
       School was an escape from the stressors at home. Finances always caused stress.
My mom usually worked two or three jobs plus any additional job that she could grab. My two brothers and I also worked and earned money for the family in any way that we could- babysitting, picking cherries, mowing lawns, selling nightcrawlers, and newspaper routes. We rented and had to move around a lot. Luckily, I didn’t have to change schools. (My brothers have a different story.) Graduating from high school was not a discussion. It was an expectation. But, paying for and graduating from college was another story. My desire was there. I just didn’t see any way for that dream to become a reality.
    There were so many challenges and roadblocks that I faced.  I could have easily given up multiple times. The fact that I didn’t give up is a tribute to my teachers, coaches, neighbors, and family members. You see, it takes a village to raise a child. I was blessed with many positive adult role models in my life. They believed in me and helped me to believe in myself. I distinctly remember an after school conversation with my 5th-grade teacher about how I’d grow up, become a teacher, and make a difference in the lives of many kids. Miss Ohngren’s voice and the voice of other teachers and coaches have played in my mind many times. These eduheroes of mine provided me with many opportunities to grow as a leader, to learn the science and art of teaching, and to pursue my dreams. Those are stories for another day. But, I am grateful that they saw the potential in me. I am honored to have been a student of so many inspiring educators. I hope that I can pass along their legacy. Photo Credit: tek_chick via Compfight cc
  Photo Credit: viyh via Compfight cc

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