That's where I was, driving to my first education-related interview, when I learned of the attacks on the World Trade Center. It was a picturesque September morning. I was listening to NPR, when all of a sudden they switched from local to national coverage to give us minute-by-minute updates of what was happening.
It was a true juxtaposition of images and sound, my eyes taking in the morning sun as it bounced off leaves and was absorbed by the grassy fields that marked my way to a local nature reserve. The sound, the voice of Peter Jennings and other correspondents working to make sense of the chaos unfolding in real time in New York City. It was bizarre and frightening. I remember trying to explain it to the man I was meeting with, the director of a wildlife sanctuary where I was trying to land a gig as a volunteer tour guide.
Fresh from hiking 1,000 miles of the Appalachian Trail after quitting my job as a newspaper reporter, I was looking to gain entrance into the field of education, hoping to parlay my affinity for nature and my abilities as a journalist into something new. Fortunately, the director of the reserve decided to give me a shot. I was paired with a veteran staffer, taken on a tour of the grounds, and given the green light to welcome school groups to the sanctuary.
I used my experience there to land a paying job at a local YWCA, working with kindergarten and early elementary school children. My gig at the "Y" helped me get some substitute teaching work at area middle and high schools. Eventually, I was hired as a full-time building substitute at a middle school, where I spent time as a sub and special-ed paraprofessional.
Later that year I worked as a journalism and creative writing teacher at a summer arts camp, then went on to graduate school, where I studied English education. After earning a degree and passing the state's teacher test, I landed a job teaching English and journalism to high school students in Massachusetts. I'm now in my eighth year working at the secondary level.
In addition to being linked to 9/11, my ascension from volunteer tour guide to full-time classroom teacher also has parallels with the meteoric rise of a certain New England Patriots quarterback. Tom Brady, a 2001 sixth-round draft choice, went from being a bench-riding rookie to Super Bowl MVP. While I don't have any trophies to boast of, I do have an excellence in teaching award, bestowed upon me by one of the members of my high school's 2010 graduating class. While the award is nice recognition for the hard work I've put in, even more meaningful is the personalized message that accompanied the award, written by one of my former students.
Just as I hope that Tom Brady's best days as a quarterback are not behind him, the same goes for myself as an educator. Currently enrolled in a second master's degree program, I hope to continue to learn about ways I can be an effective teacher and make a positive difference in the lives of my students. On this day, 10 years after my journey as an educator began, I am thankful to those who have helped me grow from a young man uncertain about his place in the world to a (slightly older) man who, while still seeking, has landed on a path that's proven to be both personally and professionally rewarding.