Monday, January 23, 2012

30 before 30: my first career

When I decided to start my 30 before 30 project, I sat down to make sure I had 30 things I wanted to write about. What I didn't consider was the order in which I wanted to write about them. Due to lack of planning on my part, the follow up to my high school post is appearing much sooner than anticipated because today is kind of a special day... the birthday of Mary Ward, the foundress of the IBVM, the order who ran Loretto.

Once upon a time I was a teacher...

Just days away from graduating from university I received a phone call letting me know that a teaching position was opening up in theology department at the very high school I had graduated from. Every college student's dream is to have a job offer out of school. I was graduating midyear so I spent the spring substitute teaching and preparing for my first career. Teaching at Loretto was a dream come true and I looked forward to spending many years there.

When I started teaching at Loretto I was 23 years old. I was young and enthusiastic. I was dedicated and excited to learn. Brandon was living in Colorado so I dedicated every moment I had to teaching. In my short four years I taught Old Testament, Intro to Catholic Christianity, Sacraments, social justice, sexuality and morality. I went on service trips, led retreats and coached swimming. I was a moderator for class council and part of the faculty spirituality team. I lived every moment for that school and for the young women who went to school there.

It is hard to describe what those four years meant to me. The years I spent there as a teacher only reinforced everything I had loved about being a student there. I was empowered. I was encouraged. I was welcomed. I grew. And I grew up.

Most of all I had fun. Working in an all-girls high school is entertaining; the priorities and values of 15 year olds are often amusing. I enjoyed their laughter, their learning and even their occasional bouts of the dramatic. I loved their school spirit and their class spirit and their willingness to serve. I loved their attempts to distract me in class by asking about music, television or my impending wedding. I adored the silly pictures they drew in class or the terrible pottery they discarded on my desk. And I lived for the moments when one of them "got it"-- that moment when suddenly all the hours of preparation pay off because maybe just one student learned something about the subject, themselves or their faith.

And my coworkers? Some of the best friends and mentors I have ever met. We shared so much stress, joy and laughter with one another. I loved our late nights in pajamas on retreat, our after school "meetings" at the bar and just our simple moments in the faculty room. Mornings gathered around the coffee pot before the warning bell will always be one of my most subtle, but significant memories. Those men and women (many who were also my own teachers) welcomed me and supported me through every step of my short teaching career.

It is cliche to say that I learned so much more as a teacher than I ever did as a student, but it couldn't be more true. My students and my peers taught me about faith, dedication and love. I learned about trust and spirit. I learned how to lead by example and was constantly challenged to think about the choices I made. My time there reinforced that I am valuable and creative and that I can make a difference.

Almost exactly three years ago we learned that Loretto would be closing. It was an announcement that shook me to my core. A school as established, as beloved, as supported as our Loretto should never have to close its doors. The good people who worked there--some for longer than I had been alive--had to look for new jobs. Students had to choose new schools. Like the rest of the faculty, I spent months trying to decide what to do next with my life. I had opportunities to teach in different capacities, but my heart wasn't in it. So just four years into my teaching career, I put education aside and went to work for my dad.

Teaching isn't easy. Sure, there are a few months off in the summer and some time off during the school year, but don't be fooled. Teaching is physically, mentally and emotionally exhuasting. Classes were done at 3pm, but I was often grading or lesson planning until late in the evening. I spent hours preparing for just 45 minutes of teaching. Maybe the most difficult part for me was carrying the weight of my students' worries with me. In the course of teaching you learn the stories of students. It is difficult not to go home and think of those kids and the troubles they have.

When I left teaching I told myself that I could go back. Today I am not sure if or when that will be. I am sure that I would be fine in any school, but part of me knows that I would always be comparing it to Loretto, to a time in my life that wasn't perfect, but was pretty damn amazing.

Once upon a time I was a teacher. And I loved it.

Save Loretto Rally

On retreat at Lake Tahoe, 2009

Chaperoning Prom 2009- all Loretto alumnae!


  1. I am constantly comparing my current life to my Loretto life. I have dreams that it opens up again and I get my life back. I dreamt so just last night. This post breaks my heart.

  2. Beautiful. I love you (and Ms. Wanket!) in such a profound way... you both totally embody Loretto. I still get so much inspiration from all my Loretto teachers. Don't ever doubt the impact you had and continue to have on all of us!

  3. What a wonderful teaching experience you had. You were clearly truly dedicated to those kids! Teenagers scare me. After my first year teaching the deaf program I worked for was cut in half and it was devastating. Luckily a great opportunity was in front of me and I am even happier now. Hopefully something will fall in front of you when it is right!