“I was one of those people that I always knew I wanted to be a nurse. Like not even a question in my mind. Well, actually, I knew I always wanted to be in healthcare. I have a picture of me in first grade on career day and I’m dressed as a nurse in full scrubs with the stethoscope. But I originally thought I wanted to be a doctor. So I started out as pre-med at Geneva College for two years, which is where I met my husband.

After I went to Geneva for two years and realized very quickly that what you see on TV of how physicians are portrayed, 99% of that is actually a nursing function. So when I really realized what a nurse did, I changed my mind and I said, ‘I’m going to go to nursing school!’ Well, I was already in love with my soon-to-be husband, and Geneva did not have a nursing program, so I transferred to this little tiny hospital college called Jamison Memorial Hospital School of Nursing where I got my diploma in nursing. Later on, I realized that I wanted to get my master’s, but I had not yet earned a bachelor’s degree. So I went back and graduated with my bachelor’s degree from Ohio University and then set my sights on becoming a nurse practitioner. I had already spent 12 years at the bedside, all intensive care, and I loved intensive care, but I only worked high-level trauma and I was ready for something different.

So when we moved here in 2010 from Ohio, I was still in the middle of getting my bachelor’s degree, just about ready to graduate, and I applied and got into the University of Maryland nurse practitioner program. Not long after that, I got a call from the principal at Barstow Elementary where my kids were in school saying, ‘Hey, we have a position that’s opening-up for a school nurse. Would you consider applying?’ So I applied, but I really didn’t think I would get the job and then I did. So I called the University of Maryland and said, can you give me one year before I start, and I delayed starting my master’s program and started working as a school nurse at Barstow Elementary. I walked into the building as the school nurse, a building that I had been on the PTA, and class mom, and now I was a staff member. And It changed my life because I saw what the teachers really did. I saw what they were doing from a whole new perspective.

About six months after I started I came home to my husband and I said, ‘I have good news, I am going back to school to get my master’s degree, but I’m not going to be a nurse practitioner. I’m going to be a teacher!’ I had no idea the path I was going to go with that degree, but I knew it was what I was meant to do. So I started my master’s program to become a clinical nurse educator and I was about ½ through my program when there was an opening at the Career Technology Academy (CTA) for a part-time clinical instructor. I got that position and left my school nurse job at Barstow. I loved my job as a clinical instructor, but it was also really hard because I would only have them for five days, and I would fall in love with them, and then they would go into a new rotation. It was a constant building of relationships. This is why when the full-time teaching position opened up in 2014, I applied and never looked back since. I don’t know what my life’s going to bring.

Right now I am finishing my doctorate program, but I have no specific plans of what I want to do with it. If I do nothing else but change my credentials after my DNP and continue to do what I love, then that will be good for me. I love my job at CTA, and I’ve also been a hospice nurse for 17 years, covering one weekend a month. I can’t imagine at this moment in my life-giving that up either. I’m finally at the point in my career and I’ve been in the county long enough where I have taken care of colleagues, parents, and I have taken care of friends, grandparents, and friends, and parents. To be given the opportunity to walk into those situations and have that intimacy, I love that I have that and my job as a teacher at CTA.

As a second career teacher, I have always really cherished teaching. I’m incredibly thankful to do what I do, in the county I live in. There are only five of us at the Academy of Health Professions-three full-time nurses, one full-time physical therapist, and then one clinical teacher. So three nurse positions at the Academy in the county and, and most counties in the state have maybe one or two positions. I don’t ever take it for granted that I get to go do this every day. Do you know what I mean? And so I think that there’s just kind of that sweetness of like, it’s almost like a mom who waited until later in life to get pregnant. Do you know what I mean? And you go like, Oh, like, this is, this is what I want. Yeah. And I’m so thankful for it.

And my students are amazing. I mean, they give me their best every day. And I don’t just say that lightly as they come to school and they give me their best every day because they know if they don’t give me their best every day, there’s going to be a conversation. I have very high expectations of both their behavior and their success.

My expectation is that no child is going to fail. And that includes their professionalism and the way they speak to me, each other, and the way they speak to patients. Every summer I pray over my kids and I just say, ‘God, put, whoever is supposed to be in my classroom this year. Whether they have to be there for, you know, emotional-social reasons, whether they have to be there for educational reasons, whatever, the reason God, I have room for 32 kids. Give me the 32 kids that you have called for me to speak into.’

This year has been hard. It’s been good, but I feel robbed a little bit of the time I had with them. I’m used to having my kids two hours a day, five days a week. This year I have them four hours a day, two days a week. You may think it would be the same, but it’s not because with the constant interaction, five days a week, two hours a day, I’m always touching base with them. ‘What did you do last night? Hey, I heard you at a soccer game!’ Now when they leave on Wednesday, I don’t see them again until the following Monday. So you’ve got these huge gaps. So I feel a bit robbed of those connections. And it can be draining. Teaching is a lot of grading and a lot of planning. It is purposeful. It’s intentional.

But the reason why we do it is because of the relationships- the ones with our students and the relationships with our colleagues. SoI think there is a higher level of emotion at the end of this school year than other years, because you’re like, gosh, did I reach them all? Did I miss somebody? Did they get from me what they needed to get? So there is a little bit of thank you, Jesus, we made it and there’s also a little bit of grief over the year that had.

The programs at The Calvert Technology Academy (CTA) went back face-to-face on October 5th for our seniors. No one else was back at that time at that level. And so we had to learn immediately….baptism by fire, no training, no nothing. Just, you now need to learn how to teach these programs concurrently. I had so many people come up to us during that time and say, how are you doing this? And all I can say is we found a way; we found a way never even looked back. It’s such a blur because so much of the time, we were just managing. I hate to say that it was a crisis because it wasn’t a crisis in the traditional sense, but we just had enough energy and strength to manage the problem that was right in front of us at the time. It was just this massive, massive rethinking of every process, every step along the way.

And people just kept coming up to us and saying, how are you doing this? And my answer was always, we’re just finding a way. And today I’m happy to report that every single one of my students that chose to, is leaving with a certification. Every single one. I know that what I do beyond matters.

Teaching beyond matters-and I know that might sound weird since I came from a position in the ICU where I literally have life and death in my hands, but teaching has more power and influence to shape lives, and that is unbelievable.”

This article originally appeared on Humans of Calvert County Facebook on May 8, 2021 and is republished with permission.

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