Every now and then you have an opportunity in life to see something so special that you know it will stay with you always. I had that opportunity today.
After my daughter Courtney was born, I decided to stay home and enjoy being a full-time mom. However, as Courtney approached school age, I knew I would have to return to work (after all, we hadn't planned for me to take several years off!), but I just wasn't sure I could manage being the kind of mom I was committed to being and the kind of teacher I felt I had been before my children were born. I decided to try to get a job at the school Courtney would be entering so that I could better juggle my responsibilities. It just so happened that it was the year that Alimacani Elementary School, our new neighborhood school, opened, but... they were not hiring. As luck would have it (or as I like to think of as Divine intervention) the preschool teacher of children with disabilities had to leave shortly before the doors opened and I walked into the opportunity of a lifetime. Although I had 15 years of experience in Special Education, I wasn't sure I could recapture my love for teaching. I had really loved being a stay-at-home mom, but I need not have worried because Alimacani was led by a gifted and passionate administrator, Donna Hulsey. Donna has now retired but I credit her for putting me back in touch with all the reasons I had become a teacher in the first place. She made me believe again... and dream again. I fell in love with teaching all over again. It was in those days that Courtney went to school with me every day. She got there early and left late. She often played school with the other "teacher children" that stayed late. I remember she used to beg to stay even longer. She knew my room and the school like the back of her hand. As she got older, she'd go to the bus stop with me each day and sit beside this student or that and entertain them while the others came. She learned how to calm a child that cried as his mom left and what the favorite toy or activity was of each child. She knew how to soothe a child when they were hurt. I loved having her with me and missed her (most of the time!) as she left to go to middle school.
I guess I shouldn't have been surprised after a couple of years in college when she said she thought she wanted to be a Special Education teacher, but I was. As a middle schooler and high schooler she had often been critical of the long hours that teachers put in for what she saw as so little money. When she left for college, I remember her saying, "I don't know what I'm going to be, but I do know I'm NOT going to be a TEACHER!" However, that is exactly what she decided to do. This semester she has been finishing her Masters degree from FSU by interning at Gulfside Elementary in Holiday, FL. Today I had the opportunity of a lifetime to visit her preschool classroom and watch in awe... my daughter, the teacher.
Courtney has been blessed with a seasoned supervising teacher, Mrs. Raco, whose knowledge seeps through as she talks so kindly and so knowingly about each and every child. She has guided Courtney through every step - has reinforced each effort and shaped each approximation. Mrs. Raco's assistant, Mrs. Garedelli, is also studying to be a teacher. Courtney has learned much from her calm and compassionate approach. As I watched Courtney today, I couldn't help but think of that little kindergartner who sat in my classroom after school every day with the teddy bears lined up in chairs reading them a story - only today she was reading to children who have put their tiny fingerprints on her life in way that will change her forever. I used to think that children were Divinely chosen to spend time in my class because of something I was suppose to teach them. However, slowly I realize it was not what I was suppose to teach them, but what they were suppose to teach me... and I have learned so much! Welcome to this field, my dear daughter. May your years as a teacher be blessed and may you always forever be a learner...