The Moments That Made Us

Have you ever looked back on your journey to and through your teaching career and realized that there were some moments you almost missed “it?” “It” being the pivotal moments that pulled you closer to being where you are today in your teaching career.  A magnetic moment in which if you would have given up or ignored “it”, you’d be in a completely different journey in life, or maybe not even a teacher at all?

This microblog is about honoring those moments. Some of these moments were glorious and full of gratitude. Some of the moments were messy and full of hurt and more about overcoming than riding the wave of joy. Both kinds of moments brought you to where you are today. And from these moments, maybe you know without a shadow of a doubt that you were made to be a teacher.

I want to share four moments that made me in this microblog for two reasons. The first is that I hope that it brings encouragement to keep going on your journey. The second is our stories matter and we become relatable to others when we share our moments that make us. Honor your story by telling your story. You never know who needs to hear it and what conversations may come from sharing your moments that made you. So let’s dive in. Four moments that made me coming up below:


 As a student at the University of Wisconsin- River Falls (GO FALCONS!) I was enrolled in my first Health Education course about safety education. My plan was to double major in Health and Physical Education. I was stoked to get the chance to do some group teaching opportunities with my peers and people I really enjoyed being with. I looked up to this professor as a mentor. Well, ahead of the day I was supposed to group teach, I spoke to the professor to share that I was also a soccer player for the University and I had a soccer game the day of the teaching so I would like to create a time to make the lesson up. Surprisingly, she let me create a lesson and teach a whole class period of 7th graders all by myself. I thought it went ok, but was eager to hear what she thought. I remember meeting her in the entrance of Karges Hall, sitting on the bench, and then getting completely ripped to shreds by all that she had thought I had done wrong. I sat there balling and broken while she continued to talk and break my dreams. Now, before I go on, I want to share that she was absolutely correct in that it was a horrible lesson. She was absolutely doing her job. But, I have always wondered what could have happened  if she could have gotten curious with me before she gave feedback about how bad it was. She would have found out that I had literally never had a teaching class before, no pre-service practicum hours, no methods classes, or any health content classes. And as rough and broken as I was, I have to give her my biggest thank you ever for that moment. Because it was after this moment I told myself I would never be a health teacher and need to switch my second major to an Adapted PE minor. I remember walking down the Karges Hall hallway, finding Dr. Sue Tarr when she was finishing up one of her lectures (I was still in tears mind you) and asking her how I could switch out of the Health major into having an Adapted PE minor. My life would never be the same again. I’m grateful for that pivotal moment. I would not be here without it.


As teachers we know how vital the practicum hours as a pre-service teacher are to prepare us for real world teaching. Right after I found Dr. Tarr and switched from a Phys Ed and Health Ed Major to a Phys Ed major/Adapted PE minor, she invited me to come and volunteer at her “Kids on Two Wheels” bike camp for kids with disabilities. I said yes and it brought me to another moment that made me. This was the first opportunity to have hands-on experience in teaching kids to connect to recreation and leisure and bike riding is a skill that is a right of passage for every kid. What I experienced during bike camp was watching kids who had needs in the areas of balance, attention, core strength and other gross motor skills move from being unable to ride a bike, to successfully riding a bike with only two wheels in 5 days or less. It was incredible to see the adaptations and modifications we used (that’s a whole other blog post) to help students be successful. One kiddo I was working with was struggling a lot with anxiety which was the biggest barrier to her success. I had a moment where I needed to stop and get down to her level on her bike, and I told her that she could do it. That even though we are scared we can still try because when we get it, we will feel free. It took some more encouragement and multiple stops and pump up speeches, but at the end of the week she was able to ride a bike on two wheels. And as we were cleaning up and walking out of the field house later that day, Dr. Tarr shared that she had seen me work with this child and said that I had the perfect amount of push and perfect amount of motivation. That I did a great job. I want to believe that this day was the day I became an Adapted PE teacher in my soul. Quite different than the first moment that made me but I am ETERNALLY grateful for BOTH moments.


If you ever get a chance to serve on your state committee for Physed, Health, or Adapted PE, it might be a moment that makes you. I remember when Rich Burke (2004 SHAPE America National Adapted PE Teacher of the Year) reached out to me to ask if I would be a region representative for regions 5 and 7 on the MNDAPE Leadership Committee. At that point in 2017, my youngest child was almost a year old, and my brain was finally clearing up from the fog that was hovering from the newborn/young baby with a toddler stage. I was ready to take the plunge and get involved with my state organization for Adapted PE. My first meeting I felt two emotions. The first was that I was in way over my head and had so much to learn. The second was that I was sitting among MN Adapted PE legends in our field who were incredible at advocating for our profession. My life has never been the same. When I am lost as an Adapted PE teacher or have a situation I’ve never been in with due process paperwork, or even needing verbiage to speak up to my administration, I always have the support to work through the hard stuff, and have the best laughs. MNDAPE Leadership Committee is family. I am so grateful for this moment that made me.


You never know when one conversation with another teacher will change the trajectory of your life and be a moment that makes you. No joke. One conversation. In the fall of 2018, I decided to branch out from presenting at MNDAPE and present at our state MNSHAPE conference at Wayzata High School. It was during this conference that I happened to be presenting something on modifying and adapting racquet sports. The session before I presented was a session about animated gifs with Randy Spring and Craig Hawkinson. It was a game changer for visuals for me that I still use to this day. Afterwards, Randy and Craig attended mine. I thought it went pretty good, but it was the conversation with Randy afterwards that sits with me until this day. We randomly ran into each other at lunch at the conference and Randy said to me, “Jen Heebink, what you do needs to be shared.” He went on to tell me that the Phys Ed world needs to hear what I am doing and that he was impacted deeply by what I shared. That moment made me and continues to make me. It gave me the courage to continue to present and share wisdom and also soak in other Phys Ed/Adapted PE teachers’ wisdom. Two years later, Randy and I would join Jessica Matheson as the 2020 MNSHAPE Teachers of the year- (in the middle of a pandemic no less). Three years later, all three of us would be SHAPE America District AND National Teachers of the year. Randy, as a 2023 Elementary TOY, Jess as 2022 Health TOY, and me as the 2022 Adapted PE TOY. And through the TOY family, we’ve found incredible support from the Phys Ed/Health/Adapted PE family. One conversation with one teacher in one conference that increased my confidence and was a moment that would make me.

Looking back at your story, have you identified those moments that made you and became the pivotal moments that drew you in to be a teacher? I encourage you to reflect on your journey as a teacher and honor the stories, people and conversations that deeply impacted you on your journey. And then when you’re ready, share them. Thank the people who encouraged you. Release the tough ones and heal from them, and then exchange them with gratitude. In doing so, may you find more room for your roots of purpose to hold in the ground when the job gets tough. Cheers friends. Cheers to your stories and the moments that made you.

This microblog post was a featured post in #slowchathealth’s #microblogmonth event. You can search for all of the featured posts here. Please do follow each of the outstanding contributors on social media (including Jen Heebink, the author of this post) and consider writing a microblog post of your own to be shared with the global audience of

Pair this blog post with the following:

My Why by Charlie Rizzuto

Unexpected Detours by Ray Ostrowski

How Legends Are Made by Heather Burd

Have you read the latest Book of the Month recommendation?

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