In April of 1995, as I wrapped up my fifth year as a teacher in Oklahoma City, I was in the middle of a lesson with my second graders when we heard the guttural boom. When the rafters of our old schoolhouse rattled and groaned, students and teachers searched for answers. From our building, we saw the black plume of smoke from the terrorist truck bomb detonated just four and a half miles away. As the lead teacher with no principal in the building, I locked down our school and consoled teachers, parents, and students. In the coming weeks, I became a better teacher and more compassionate person. That experience enriched my professional and personal life in unique ways.
In 2011, our school was significantly damaged in the infamous EF5 tornado that destroyed a third of our city. That summer, I assisted in coordinating relief teams who reported to the church for direction. I passed out supplies and food to survivors almost every day from dawn to dusk. The following school year became my most rewarding in education, teaching and counseling students and parents who lost their houses and loved ones or had been personally injured or emotionally afflicted by the storm.
I have worked with peers, principals, and superintendents to lead our district and influence stakeholders. My teaching career has been challenging and very fulfilling throughout the years, but I am still learning and growing: I still have years ahead of me, and I look forward to hitting the ground running with every new opportunity. This year, I was named Missouri's History Teacher of the Year, and I am now involved with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History as a Master Teacher. I know that I will still have a place in education for many years, even after my retirement from the profession.