Life Update #2

I have come to realize that when we accomplish something, great or small, we do so not merely by our own effort, merit, or power. We do so with the help of so many others, both in very significant ways and small ways. And those small ways at the time might even become significant later. That is what this is about. Each morning one of the things I do is write thoughts of gratitude in a journal. The following thoughts came from this practice.

On April 1 I was informed by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing that after much time, study, substitute teaching, tons of paperwork, etc., I officially received my California teaching credential. As soon as an elementary teaching position is available (most likely for the upcoming 2022-23 school year), I can apply for it. I will confess that I may have shed a tear or seven upon receiving this news. 

But here is the deal. As mentioned earlier, without the help of so many, this would not have happened. I need to thank these people. Here they are:

Dr. Deana Porterfield, president of Roberts Wesleyan College. You plucked Jen and me from SoCal and we moved for Jen’s career. We are back in SoCal and many might think moving to New York was a mistake. It was not. Deana asking Jen to join your crew there was the catalyst that moved me toward the direction of teaching. And you lead the college that taught me so many things. Deana, thank you!

Cohort 16 (this is often yelled loudly by me) at Robert Wesleyan College. These are my classmates as I joined the Pathway to Teaching program. It was a blast to be a part of and without them there, making this achievement would have been exceedingly more difficult. I have some amazing memories with this crew and I find myself missing being with them. Lyndsay, Lynn, Bethany, Chris, Tessa, Rachel, Stephanie, Joe, Nick, Carrie, Elaine, Allicia (with an ‘i’), Raff, Tangela, Denisha, Brad, and Alysha (with a ‘y’), thank you!

The education teachers at Roberts. Not only are they loaded with knowledge about education, almost every one of them had years and years of experience in the field. They brought “real-life” training into our classrooms. Roberts teachers, thank you!

Renee Frazee. I showed up at West Ridge Elementary School in the Greece school district to volunteer for a summer reading camp (part of the classroom hours I needed). There, I was paired up with an amazing teacher with decades of experience named Renee Frazee (pronounced like ‘crazy’). Her joy bubbled through her the entire time and I simply learned by watching. I also enjoyed some pretty funny memories with her during that summer camp: Aubrey farting in the peace circle. Robert going on a rant about chaos that sounded like an African-American preacher. So many memories in a very short month. She then got me into her school, Craig Hill Elementary School, as a one-to-one in a self-contained special ed classroom, my first full-time job in a real school. (It was also during this time that as a teacher I would say sentences I never thought I would say such as “Braden, stop giving Bobby titty-twisters!”) And there at Craig Hill, Renee was a constant rock of support. Renee, thank you!

The other teachers I met at Craig Hill, specifically David Capizzi. David lives the quote I love: “There is no plan B, YOU are plan A.” David was poised to do something else in his life but circumstances changed things. He became a teacher and realized that this was/is his calling. And he is phenomenal in the classroom! Craig Hill teachers, David, thank you!

Team GPS, room 3510. “What?” you ask. Well, this is a team of three people I met and became friends with when I did my student teaching in a 6th-grade class at Churchville-Chili Middle School who called themselves Team GPS. Here they are:

G: Ashley Guarino, my master teacher for my student teaching. I don’t know why she said yes but she did. If I can be one-tenth as good of a teacher as she is I would consider myself successful. I told many people and continue to do so that “she is a ROCK STAR!” She took the stuff I learned and helped me apply it to the classroom. She gently watched me fumble through observed lessons and gave me notes of her own that I still have. Brilliant notes. (She never even chastised me when I said, “I would love to live in the down-below (instead of the down-under) because even though it smells like low tide I can clean it up.”) These notes were beyond encouraging words. And for some reason, she trusted me to be a sub in her room after I graduated. Ashley, thank you!

P: Melinda “Grammar Queen” Pier, the special ed teacher. She came into room 3510 regularly to work with some students and be an ELA teacher, thus the “Grammar Queen” moniker. Melinda showed me very real methods to help students who have different ways of learning. She ALSO trusted me as a sub later on. Melinda, thank you!

S. Lisa Sheible, T.A. for room 3510. I sat at the back table with Lisa during many hours of student teaching. (We laughed pretty hard a LOT.) I watched the way she lovingly helped to manage the classroom. I watched her love students and practically become a parent to them. And she gets my humor. While being observed doing a math lesson, I was a French chef teaching fractions. I did the math wrong on the board. Lisa cracked up, which actually helped my nerves. At the end of the lesson when I tried to tell students to “do your work on a separate sheet of paper,” my awful French accent made it come out as “do your work on a separate shit of paper.” I believe that Lisa almost fell on the floor. If you think that laughing at this made me feel bad, then you don’t know me. It was the best thing she could have done. Lisa, thank you!

BTW, I still have my “Team GPS” tee shirt and wear it often. And I still to this day consider room 3510 to be my homeroom, even though we now live 2,300 miles away from there as the crow flies.

The 6th-grade students in the class where I did my student teaching. They took in this old fart student-teacher and treated me with respect and love far beyond what I could have ever imagined. I can still see the faces of every one of them. I can still hear their voices. I visited their room for a few hours near the last day of school, which I knew would be the last time I would get to be with them. Toward the end of the day, I didn’t want to be a distraction so I left quietly so that they wouldn’t know I’d gone, and then wept in the car. They made a notebook for me where they all said some amazing things. They all signed the book Oh, the Places You’ll Go and I still look at those names. Students of room 3510, thank you!

The many teachers in the Churchville-Chili school system in New York. I subbed there seventy-nine days in 2021 and learned so many things from them along the way. Again, real-life things. CCCUSD teachers, thank you!

Beth Chamberlain, who helped me navigate the complex credentialing system of California that operates at geological speed. Your experience, wisdom, and contacts were so helpful. Beth, thank you!

To so many friends who were so supportive of me when I made this decision to become a teacher. It was quite overwhelming to see the outpouring. You have no idea how encouraging this was and still is. There are too many to even mention, but to you, thank you!

And, Jen. All along the way, Jen was there all along heaping loads of encouragement throughout the thick and thin of this process. And Jen had also helped me discover the current direction of teaching that I am now going, never doubting me for a second…a New York second even! Jen, I love you so much…thank you!!!

I know that I’ve left people out of this list because there are too many. I could not have accomplished this on my own. I am so blessed by all of you.


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