My Bittersweet Sixteen

It has been sixteen years since that challenging first year I started at Hart. In 2002 I traveled among four different classes and had no real space of my own. My entire classroom fit into a rolling crate. Sixteen years I have been walking beneath our ancient, wise trees.  Sixteen years I have lived with a red brick backdrop. And now, it is my “sweet sixteen.” The “sweet sixteen” birthday tradition started in the Victorian Era as a way to present young women who were coming of age to society. In many ways, I came of age as a teacher at Hart. It all began with English “lab” classes and a challenging group of students with gaps in their learning and their motivation. Since then I have taught all levels of English Learners and English. I founded the AVID program in 2005 (now REACH) and graduated our first class of AVID students in 2009. In 2006 I became a literacy coach for the District ILP program and in the same year, was hired as Hart High’s first Professional Development Coach and District Trainer. In 2011 I created our Carpe Librum reading program which became the basis for our Gold Ribbon recognition. I have served for six years as English Department Chair. I wrote my first published work in my classroom, F-12.  I was honored as Hart High’s Teacher of the Year, Hart District Teacher of the Year, and was among the top 25 for Los Angeles County in 2016-2017. And finally, I was Hart’s first Instructional Coach. Now I am about to journey on to more firsts as I help to open a brand new school. Considering I hated high school as a student and only accidentally arrived at teaching, I am amazed. I list all of these accomplishments not to boast, but to stand in awe at where life has led me. A path that would not have been possible without all of you. It may sound cliché, but it is true. The opportunities I have had and the people I have met along the way shaped who I am as a teacher and a person.     

Hart was my becoming. My becoming of both teacher and teacher leader. You have all been models, mentors, advisors, and friends. You have challenged me and supported me. But most of all, you have inspired me.  As I move on, I carry the lessons I learned from all of you. And I leave you with some pause for thought, as well. I recently read this passage in Dare to Lead, by Brene Brown. Brown’s words perfectly capture what I believe we should all be: “guardians of space.”

Providing students the space that Brown talks of is so important to their success in school and in life. Continue to be guardians and really see each and every student. We don’t teach English, math, or any other subject. We teach human beings and this should be at the forefront of our minds each day. As Instructional Coach, I brought this same philosophy to my coaching. I was not here just to demonstrate lessons or provide feedback on teaching practices. I was here to listen as much as lead. I coached teachers, yes. But I tried to always see you first as beautiful and complex human beings. I hope that I have created space for you: a space to explore, to evolve and to become. Rumi said, “Every object, every being is a jar full of delight.” Delight daily in your students…and in one another. Be kind to your colleagues and support each other. And thank you. Thank you for giving me a space to belong for the past sixteen sweet years. Stay classy, Hart. ❤️

“I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree.” – Joyce Kilmer
Oh how I will miss these trees!

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