Growing up with TV cop shows like CHiPs, TJ Hooker, and Rescue 9-1-1, I wanted nothing more than to be a police officer. I can remember my fleet of matchbox police cars and putting a fake red light on my bike, always wanting to play cops. However, as focused as I seemed on that career path, it is not the profession I currently hold. I am now at the end of my 15th year as a Health and Physical Education teacher, a career I never considered but has become a true passion.
Some identify their career path early and can achieve that dream, while others have no idea and either struggle or enjoy the ride until they find it or it finds them. Another group starts on one path but then encounters one or many detours along the way, making their journey uncertain.
This is my story of a journey that started with some direction, faced periods of uncertainty, and grew into a fantastic trip.
My journey started to change at the end of high school when I joined the Army National Guard, again never on my radar. Then, one day in the fall of 1998, while at Army Basic Training, I woke up, and unexpectedly my career aspirations had shifted entirely. You can say my future career started finding me that day. The drill instructors had had me work with several other trainees to help them retrain on tests they failed. I rarely turned down an opportunity to help someone, and this would be no different, especially since my drill instructors asked me. I was the kid in third grade who feared having to give an oral presentation in front of the class and who in sixth grade only wanted a behind-the-scenes role in the class play, so this was a new experience. I never wanted any attention or spotlight placed on me. So how was it this was the direction my mind and gut were telling me to go? Why did this feel so natural?
I didn’t have the answer but followed my heart and adjusted my path towards a health and physical education teaching career. Along the way, I experienced detours and delays in getting to a four-year school, but I arrived in 2001. In 2004 the next significant change came when I was mobilized with the Army Reserves for a year. Upon returning, I wanted nothing more than to start working and was ready to drop out of college and pursue a career in construction. Thankfully, during that low period, one of my professors helped convince me to stay in school and finish what I had started. I will forever be grateful to the feisty Dr. Anne Farrell, who helped keep me on course.
I secured a job in 2007 teaching elementary PE at the school I attended as a child, a unique circle my life had taken. Then in 2010, due to a tough school budget year, my position was a casualty through Reduction In Force. I was out of a job. This was a significant blow to the career I quickly came to love. I stood there that June 24th of 2010, uncertain and briefly broken, looking for a path to travel but saw none. It was a summer of uncertainty and grit trying to figure out the next turn I needed to take.
Late in the summer of 2010, a miracle happened, and there was an opening in the district that had just let me go. This new turn was for a high school position, the same high school I graduated from 13 years earlier. Through the next 12 years, my career took on many changes that have helped shape the teacher I am today. After a few years of feeling “stale,” I needed something different. 2017 delivered a major burst of energy when I met the famous Chip Candy. Those two days at the Purnell School were transformative as a teacher. Since that workshop, I have presented both in-district and at the state level, become involved on social media, and renewed my love of teaching.
Upon reflection, I often wonder how that kid who feared public speaking is a teacher, presenter, and sharing a brief account of his story on social media. When I share this story with my students, I want them to know that some journeys start and end as intended with no interruptions. Others will encounter some detours and still arrive at their destination. Then some will embark on one path, encounter detour after detour, and arrive at a wholly unexpected but fulfilling destination. May your journey take you to the place you were meant to be.
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Pair this post with the following:
Frozen While Still Moving by Tony Alexander
A Poem About Stories by Amy Dawson