I can vividly picture the buckets of rain pouring down on my car in the spring of 2004 before GPS was on my phone or in my car. I was completely lost in a foreign place and saw spotlights in the Home Depot parking lot up ahead. As the daughter of a handyman, I knew those lights anywhere.
I safely parked and called the only person I could, my Dad. He knew exactly how to help me find this hidden school in a town I knew only through my google search. That is my father for you. It seems that he is always there any time I need him with the exact answer or helpful hand. Whether it is repairing a flat tire on the curved and very dangerous on-ramp to 295, sitting with me through every day of Kelsey’s hospitalizations and always arriving with a large pumpkin DD coffee, fixing anything for me in a pinch, or building a deck with my husband, my dad is always the one.
And so my father saved the day yet again on that Spring evening of low visibility as I was about to face my first interview in the world of education. The Superintendent and Principal were holding 15 minute interviews in the library throughout the day, and I believe that I had the final appointment of the night.
Now five minutes late and wondering if they would still be inside at 8:20 P.M, I found the door locked. Lacking an umbrella and holding my teaching portfolio that grew soggier by the second (thank you to whoever created plastic sheet protectors, by the way! Without you, I stood not a chance.), it seemed that Murphy’s Law was enjoying this hour on my behalf. When I finally reached the correct door, now likely ten minutes tardy, both Superintendent and Principal seemed warm and full of energy after a long day at work.
Late and wet, I forged on with my educational jargon, apologized profusely for my tardiness, and went with the honest approach about the rain. It was not raining when I left my evening class in Ewing, NJ nor was there a cloud in the sky all day while I was student teaching. I did not even think to grab an umbrella just in case. I was, after all, still a college student.
The two administrators could not have been nicer to me and seemed to let my joke and my honesty lighten the mood. I had an immediate comfort and connection with these two, and the feeling must have been mutual.
The journey to a job offer did not end that night, and three more interviews, including a demonstration lesson, were still necessary hurdles to cross. At least I knew the way now. The sun seemed to shine and mock me on each of the subsequent interview days that followed this initial test of my will and my patience.
That day was serendipitous after all and maybe it was Murphy’s Law that made me stand out. Whatever the case, I was offered a second grade teaching position before I graduated college. I was extremely proud.
After the first blunder, I read more about this tiny town and was impressed with all that I learned. Over the years, I have met countless families who have done everything from the extraordinary to the everyday necessities for their children. I have assisted in the home schooling of a student near and dear to my heart who still battles the effects of Leukemia. I have hosted tailgate parties with my grade level partners to celebrate local sports teams, created “Olympic” events and reading challenges with my incredible colleagues, and loved every one of my students dearly.
I would like to think that I have made a difference in the lives of many. They have given me joys, challenges, and proud moments that I will never forget. Each one has taught me something about life, humanity, and the pursuit of academic excellence.
The relationships that I have made in this town surround me in almost every aspect of my life. Over a decade of connections add up quickly. The irony of Saturday for me was that the relationships that lifted me up this weekend are the same ones I kept in the dark for so long. My journey was purposely kept hidden because it was easier, I was in denial, and I felt that it was the most professional thing to do.
The students and families who came to support Kelsey’s Lemonade Stand on Saturday at Chestnut Branch park filled my heart with more happiness than I am able to describe in words. Through the efforts of Tina Munholland, her family and with the assistance of all members of the Lutz, Buckley, Capasso, Kulback, and Buck families (among countless others that I admire and appreciate), one town came together to raise more than $1500 to help my family find a cure for my daughter. Though the money was incredibly generous, Saturday meant so much more than the donations.
Then this afternoon, I unexpectedly encountered a former student who is now in sixth grade. We did not expect to see one another. Seeing him was surreal for me. There he stood, tall and proud in a Kelsey’s Kaleidoscope t-shirt I did not even know he owned. His grin spanned from ear to ear, and I was left speechless. I was truly overcome with emotion as I am now typing about the love and support I have felt over the past few days for my daughter’s cause.
Tears stream as I reflect on all of the years and the good I thought I was doing. I realize now that I am just lucky to be a part of something amazing. There is a tremendous amount of great at every corner of that tiny town. Those, like me, lucky enough to call it our work home only seek to enhance the great and make it exceptional whether we realize it or not. How fortunate we all are.
Silence is said to be golden in a theater, but I have found little value in it elsewhere. My new motto is “Progress will not prevail through silence.” Thank you for listening, supporting, and promoting progress. Thank you Dad for somehow navigating me to that hidden school and thank you to the Superintendent and Principal who gave me a chance.
These words are a humble attempt at my heartfelt appreciation, though they could never fully convey my sincere appreciation.