I had the pleasure of spending some time with Gina at the ISTE conference in Chicago this past June and seeing the result of her JRNEY in action. While my path to teaching was direct, my path out of the classroom has been meandering, to say the least, and I believe that these crooked, twisting roads lead us to our best selves both inside and outside the classroom. Gina’s story is a perfect example of how the process is the point.
Growing up in the suburbs of New Orleans, it was a hope of mine to attend Louisiana State University, to be the first in my family to attend a 'true' college.
I moved to Baton Rouge and began my new life as a freshman with a major in Microbiology. I received a scholarship given to students who planned on having careers in a science field hoping to one day become a marine biologist. After completing my first semester, I became concerned with the amount of math involved in my chosen major and decided to switch.
Ultimately, I received Bachelors degrees in both Communications and Communication Disorders. The reality that without a Master's degree I would basically be unable to become a Speech-Language Pathologist or SLP became evident. I began graduate school part-time and worked part-time; I was told that was not a good choice since I couldn't give school my all. So, I eventually decided to move to Austin, TX, to continue a relationship with my now husband.
With finances at the forefront of my priorities, I was offered a full-time job as a private nanny to a baby girl (side note: she begins college in August). I had always loved children but never would have seen myself in that position. The salary was more than I had made in previous jobs; the snuggles and smiles were icing on the cake. I continued to take care of Emma for nearly three years and wouldn't trade that time in my life for anything.
After my husband and I were engaged, we moved back home to Louisiana. I took a job, and we began our family a year later with the birth of my first daughter. Being a mother was a role I always dreamed of, but I was stressed trying to balance work, being a parent, and married life. At times I wondered how some people made it look so easy.
As my family grew, it became evident to me that I would not be content working away from my girls and only seeing them in the evenings and on weekends. My thoughts turned to teaching.
I began subbing, and within two years, was offered a position teaching Spanish (my minor in college) and geography at a nearby high school. I enjoyed making a difference in the lives of my students and felt that this may be my final career choice. My schedule was very similar to my girls,' and I was home to help with homework, attend school functions, etc. With my girls ages 3 and 5, we welcomed a son to our family in '09.
After the birth of my son, I put my teaching career as well as my hopes for myself on hold, to spend time with my young children.
Two years later, I returned to education. This time I took a position as a paraeducator in a special needs classroom. Working with special needs children was extremely challenging; however, it was also one of the most rewarding experiences of my career.
My final career hurdle would be to become certified. I had to go through the proverbial hoops to get a license to teach in my home state. I was frustrated knowing that I had already spent over two years teaching in a classroom but would have to go through a certification program to receive my practitioner's license.
I heard about iteachLA, an alternative certification program, and decided to inquire about it. It seemed to be a good fit since I could complete online courses, and then, once I obtained a position, I could begin working immediately. Until then, I would not be required to pay back my course/certification fees. I completed the necessary testing and applied to a rural elementary school about ten minutes from my house. I interviewed for a 5th/6th science position (I could finally share my love of science with children) and was hired and began teaching within a week. Needless to say, I was a bit overwhelmed but extremely excited to have finally obtained a real teaching position!
The previous year, my dear friend and fellow educator, F. Margret Atkinson, encouraged me to join Delta Kappa Gamma, a professional organization for women. It amazed me to see the camaraderie and support these women gave to one another and to the role of teaching future generations. My 'sisters' encouraged me to ask for help and showered me with classroom supplies to help make my year run smoothly. I was beyond fortunate to have been welcomed by such a supportive group of fellow educators. Margret continues to encourage me when I doubt my abilities, and I am forever grateful for her friendship and support.
As I write this, I have just completed my first official school year. I have written the lesson plans, had discipline issues with students, and even received a few "you're my fave teacher" notes.
What a joyous ride this last year has been. I am grateful for the multitude of experiences that have led to this moment, the incredibly valuable people who have given me guidance when needed, and the lessons learned both within myself and in my classroom. I cannot wait to see what the future holds.
I have far to go before I am my "best" teacher self, but I will continue to be true to my calling to teach and to lead. I will strive to be a guiding light to my students as they are a light to me. GraciousIy, I will accept the challenges placed before me. I will follow the path set before me with high hopes for the future.
By: Gina Charlet
Gina teaches 5th & 6th grade science in a rural district in southeast Louisiana. She is a proud wife and mom to three amazing kids. She works daily striving to help students see that they can influence positive change in our world. Connect with Gina on Twitter @GinaCharlet