I did not choose teaching; teaching chose me. My unconventional path to a career in education began twelve years ago, when I decided to take a job as a teacher’s aide in a junior high behavioral disorder classroom. Students were placed in this particular classroom when they could not experience success in the “regular” classroom environment, due in part to their inabilities to communicate and socialize appropriately with their classmates. Many of the students were violent and some even battled mental illness; furthermore, a few used expletives that I had never heard before, and I knew when I arrived on my first day in my new Ann Taylor suit—a purchase my parents footed the bill for—that what I had signed up for would be no walk in the park.
Nonetheless, this was the experience that would change not only the course of my career path, but my very existence. I fell in love with teaching in an environment that would send most adults running for the hills. Despite the challenging days and difficult experiences, it was in this special classroom where my unconventional path to a career in education began. For this, I will be forever grateful. In December of 2005, I graduated with high honors from Southern Illinois University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Speech Communication. Immediately following my graduation, I enrolled myself into a Master’s program at Oakland City University, where I proceeded to earn a Master of Arts in Teaching. In that time, I engaged in researching the effects of both cooperative and active learning strategies, and I merged my research with some of my knowledge regarding interpersonal communication.
Since earning my Master’s degree, I have worked in a variety of educational settings. I spent a year “in the trenches” as a substitute early in my career, which taught me some invaluable lessons regarding classroom management. Eventually, I was fortunate enough to become an 11th and 12th grade English teacher at Dwight Township High School, which is a very special place that I have called “home” for the past ten years. Currently, I teach Advanced Placement English, English IV, and English III.
It saddens me that to experience a sense of career advancement as a teacher, one often exits the classroom to become an administrator or a curriculum director. While both are highly respected professions, the thought of pursuing a degree only to leave my classroom—not to mention my students—is something that I simply cannot fathom. Therefore, when I decided to pursue a Doctorate through The School of Teaching and Learning at Illinois State University—a longtime personal goal—I made a commitment to myself that I would do so to become a better teacher, and not to step into some higher-paying role within education. Currently, I am finishing my dissertation by researching trends in gender and technology within YA dystopian literature. I am proud that I have managed to remain true to my love of teaching, all while combining my passion for literacy.