Upon entering my freshman year at Concordia University in Mequon, WI, I was undecided about my major. I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life. It was a small private college, so the choices of majors were not as extravagant compared to the large state universities had to offer. I chose to attend Concordia because, financially, it was the best fit for my family and me.
My entire freshman year I took the required core classes one must take in order graduate. Towards the end of my freshman year, I started narrowing down my choices as to what I wanted to major in. I wanted to enjoy my career as much as possible. To me, loving a job always comes first over how much money I am going to earn. Because I loved being active and was not going to become a professional athlete, I decided to base my decision on my love for sports, and decided to go into the field of education and become a Physical Education teacher, and not just any PE teacher, but a Lutheran PE teacher. Yes, being a teacher is one of the lowest paying jobs on the totem pole, and being a Lutheran PE teacher is even less, especially with the long hours and the flexibility and sacrifice one must go through. Like I said before, I didn’t choose my major for the money, but for my love as to what I was going to do for the rest of my life. Of course, having summers off and holiday breaks were perks, but my love for sports and helping others drowned out all the negatives.
I never imagined myself as a teacher growing up, especially since I never really liked school. I didn’t like doing homework or taking notes in class and I hardly ever opened a book to read, unless I was forced to. My grades were always OK, and even above average. When I first declared my major and started taking the required classes I was rather uncertain if I was going to enjoy this profession or not. However, when I started my clinical work and doing hands on activities at elementary schools with the students, I started to fall in love with the profession, and knew I was going to enjoy my career.
I specifically majored in Lutheran K-12 education with an emphasis in Physical Education. I also minored in Adapted Physical Education, Health, Coaching and Youth Ministry. I didn’t have much of a back-up plan if teaching fell through, but these minors would be able to get me somewhere, after graduating in five years.
Upon graduation I accepted a job offer to teach at a Lutheran K-8 school in Oahu, Hawaii, where I taught computers, physical education and choir. I also coached basketball, volleyball, and track & field. As you can see, a teacher needs to be flexible in what they teach…….because you might get thrown into something you never taught before or learned how to teach. My second year teaching I accepted a position in a Lutheran school K-8 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where I taught PE, music, and choir. I was also the athletic director and a full time coach, coaching every sport known to man….at least at the school! Notice the extracurricular hours a Lutheran worker has to put in. The last few years of my teaching career I taught at a K-8 school in the suburbs of Milwaukee, where I taught religion, math, PE, and drama. I guess you can say I was the jack of all trades, when it came to being that flexible teacher able to fill all sorts of positions. Did I learn beforehand how to teach certain classes? No! It was more or less on the job training, trial and error in which I became quite successful.
A question that has been asked to me many times while I was teaching and also in prison is “Why did I become a teacher? “ Being around sports was a big draw for me in becoming a teacher. I felt my knowledge of sports while teaching and/or coaching could really benefit the kids. PE classes were not always the favorite for the non-athletes, so I knew that I would have to make it as fun as possible and to become creative in order to get all the students to enjoy class. In other words, a happy class is a happy teacher.
I always enjoyed helping others out. I loved seeing that spark in their eyes when they accomplished a near impossible task. I especially enjoyed helping out the underdogs. The challenge of helping an underprivileged kid learn, grow, and mature was my reward. I especially loved to see change for the better for the student that was a constant troublemaker. During the summers of my college years I had practice sharing God’s word to many of the kids while working at a Christian sports camp. Being a teacher I wanted to lead many to Christ. You would think teaching at a Christian school many would already know about Jesus and His walk on earth. However, quite a few didn’t, especially the parents. There was definitely a mission field.
The main reason I wanted to be a teacher was to make a difference. I wanted to make that difference to the students, parents, and even fellow teachers. I wanted to show them that I was not going to give up on them, but help them succeed at all costs. I wanted them to know that I was not going to let them fail. I wanted them to see that they could make something out of their lives. I wanted to set the good example, and to be that role model all kids need in life. I wanted to help them with their problems and to be that sounding board and person they could talk to. Most importantly, I wanted to show them that I cared!
With the nine years of teaching and coaching in my past, I do often wonder if I made any difference. Unfortunately, I did not set a good example with the poor choices I made that placed me where I am today. I pray that what I did while teaching and coaching far outweighs the negatives I did that got me here. I might never know if I made a difference in that one person’s life, but I do know that if I made a difference to one person, then being a teacher was well worth it. And if I have made a difference to one inmate in this place, then it was worth it to be here as well. As my life continues when I leave this place, I pray I find another job where I can continue to make a difference to those I come to know. God has a plan for me!