First off, I’m not going to show the letter or response due to the personal nature of both. As a result, there is no photograph to accompany this post.
In May, I hit an unexpected career milestone. I was named the elementary teacher of the year for the district in which I taught. It was a huge honor, but also strange because teaching is not something someone does to be recognized. Plus, I don’t like a lot of attention on me, especially for something I felt many people I work with deserved.
This experience was unique and I felt like it caused people to look at me differently, I thought of ways to deflect the attention off of myself and still positively impact others. Mr. Eckleman came to mind immediately. He was a talented, positive teacher that taught me 7th and 8th grade mathematics focused in algebra. Not only did he teach well, but he built connections and relationships and made learning personal. Now an administrator at a high school, I chose to write him and really express the impact he made on me and how I strive to emulate the culture and climate of the classroom he created. So, one morning I got to work early and hammered out an email stating my thanks and that he continues to influence my teaching practices.
I’m not too proud to say that his response brought me to tears. Acknowledging gratitude is a proven strategy for a happy life and a simple task I will try to incorporate into more facets of my life. Based on his response and my experience, you never know how far your actions can travel with a person.
Albert Einstein stated, “Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death”. As an educator, I value, model and promote lifelong learning. I love photography, but I often do not push myself past my own comfort level. So, when I accepted a job as a wedding photographer, I knew I had some learning to do.
For the past eight years, I have lived in Tacoma with my wife and son. A densely populated, lively, interesting city, A place where it was easy to value the convenience of being able to walk to get a locally roasted cup of coffee, a hair cut, fresh produce or a fine urban pak.
We made the decision to move to the Vancouver, WA area a year ago and fully committed to the idea. My wife found a new job in the field of orthodontics and I will be teaching first grade.
We have moved from a city with a population density of 3,900 people per square mile to a rural outskirt of Vancouver with a population density of 670 people per square mile. It’s rural. We said goodbye to the modern amenities of an 800 square foot condo and said hello to a 1960s hand-built home on five acres. So rural, that during my first week, I was approached by a republican candidate for congress on his bike, while working in the yard. That’s in addition to driving tractors, riding motorcycles and fly fishing.
It’s taken some time for my body and mind to adjust to a calmer, quieter place of residence. What’s harder than having to drive five more minutes to local businesses, is being 2 hours from my friends and family in the Puget Sound. This experience is an opportunity for me to apply what I’ve learned in my life to a completely new area. Apply my social, teaching and leadership skills to a new geographical area. I am looking forward to making new friends and knowing where all the beautiful nature spots are in addition to the best breweries. But until then, I will continue to explore on my bike and do yard work. Here’s dreaming of September and working with great teachers at a new school.
Bob Dylan sang in Temporary Like Achilles, “I’m helpless like a rich man’s child”. While I’m no rich man in terms of currency, the salary I earn has provided a means of living comfortably. As result, I haven’t had to learn how to do certain things for myself. Car/Truck repairs have been a long and miserable experience in my past. More often than not I’ve felt taken advantage thinking, “If only I knew how to do it myself!”
When deciding what I wanted to repair, I went strictly needs-based and landed on the rear brake pads and rotors on my Subaru Forester. Next, I needed an educator that would be willing and able to teach and hold me accountable for doing it myself: my cousin-in-law Zach.
I arrived at Zach’s family shop late Friday night with beer, brake pads and rotors. Ever since I began teaching in 2007, I have had the hands of a new bride. Now it was time to get this money-makers dirty. Once we lifted the rear and removed the wheel, I learned about calipers. The brake system made a lot more sense explained through the words of Zach. Replacing the rotors were straight forward. Removing the brake pads required a systematic approach to keep parts in the correct assembly order. We assembled the anti-squeal plates, retaining clips, and snapped the new pads into place.
This experience taught me that taking parts off of a vehicle isn’t a scary thing and with the right tools and know-how it can be stress-free and satisfying.
Over the past 19 months I have been a father, husband, full time teacher AND grad student. This week concluded the time and energy that I put toward earning a higher degree in elementary education.
Part of earning a master’s degree in education correlates with higher pay, but there is so much more. To me, it signifies the ultimate commitment and passion for my profession. I am a life-long learner and I strive to model this in my actions to my students and my son.
However, part of earning a master’s degree was the ultimate test of my ability to manage every thing I love; the ultimate test of self-actualization. This experience helped me to focus on specific aspects of my career in addition to pushing me to appreciate the time I have for family, friends and hobbies.
Over the past ten years I have invested countless hours, money and love into photography. From learning how to develop film and how a camera works, to logging locations to shoot at in a journal and driving miles to find a place I swore I saw something at a few years ago, to working to set my work apart from everything else I was seeing in the art community through subject/medium relationships. And, I am still not done learning, exploring and trying to capture my world the way I see it.
Recently the opportunity was awarded to me to have my first showing at Bluebeard Coffee Roasters. I put a collection together of nine great pieces; many symbolizing my love for Tacoma. If you are in the area, please stop in to this great location and view my work.