This time of year, there are a lot of endings. The end of a school year. The end of an elementary, middle, or high school experience. The end of a college career.
Usually these endings are met with celebrations and new beginnings. There’s pomp, circumstance, and a lot of love. But, as we all know, this year is different. We aren’t able to have the celebrations, graduations, and nervous excitement that comes with these endings. We can’t do our end of the year carnivals, bus waves, and send offs. And, honestly, that sucks. For the students, sure, but also for us teachers.
These moments are ones we teachers cherish. Not because we’re headed into our summer “off”, but because we’ve spent nine months with a group of kids who we have come to know and love. We have watched them grow, learn, and overcome challenges every day. We’ve walked with them through great celebrations and devastating losses, guiding them the best we can. So the loss of these special endings is painful for us, too.
And for me, there’s another ending on the horizon.
At the end of this school year, I’m starting a new position in a new school district. And while I am thrilled for this new opportunity, it’s incredibly bittersweet.
I started my career in my district. My first year teaching, bright and shiny and optimistic, was with my Knights family. My very first class of students will be seniors next year. They’ve stayed in touch, come back to visit me, and I’ve absolutely loved watching them get older (and taller) every year.
I’ve got more memories at Kaneland than I could ever put into words. But, because I’m sitting here writing and reminiscing, I’m going to give it a try.
My first group of students will forever hold a special place in my heart. I loved learning with them, figuring out what I was doing, and at the end of the year, not even remembering how we began. But a favorite moment of mine was attempting to teach elevation, and deciding to “demonstrate” by standing on a stool. They remembered that for the rest of the year. Not elevation–that I stood on a stool.
Looping from 5th to 6th grade with a truly awesome group of kiddos allowed me to see firsthand the magical change that happens in the summer before middle school. They leave as ten year olds, but they come back… middle schoolers. Being witness to that evolution was transformative for me, and it gave me a love for middle school that I can’t ever really describe. They’re wonderfully weird little people, wholly unique from their elementary and high school counterparts, and I absolutely love them for it.
Four years ago, I was welcomed onto a passionate, dedicated team of educators who helped me become the teacher I am now. My sixth grade team has shaped me. They’ve encouraged me, helped me, listened to me, shared food with me, laughed with me, and learned with me. I am so fortunate to have been on such a collaborative team, and am incredibly grateful for their influence on my growth–professionally and personally.
I have had the best experience working in a building full of positivity and vibrance, literally every day. I remember the excitement of our principal and building leadership team on the first days after being transferred to the middle school. It was contagious and inspiring, and I was so excited. Since then, their leadership has helped me evolve. The culture of growth encouraged me to try new things, take on new approaches, and not be afraid of failing. And when I did fail, I knew I’d have the support to get back up, dust myself off, and try again.
There have been countless afternoons, wandering the halls with my partner in crime. Whether we wandered into the office to peek through door windows or found our way up to the Cave, those moments cemented our friendship. I’ve made so many wonderful friends in this place, and I cannot explain how valuable you all are to me.
Every single group of students I have had has impacted me. Whether it was their affinity for superheroes, their willingness to try my ideas, or their gracious laughter at my bad jokes… they’ve all made their mark. From chickens flying over Walmart to plants named Danny DeVito, we’ve had many laughs. And the quiet moments, ones where we shared our feelings, our poetry, and our experiences in the safety of the classroom; those are beautiful in a way I cannot attempt to describe. There have been challenges, failings, progress, growth… and all of it has been my absolute honor to be part of. I’ve loved my time with each of my classes, adding to our inside jokes, signing our bench, and walking like we have beach balls under our arms. The Giordanoans of every year have helped me fill our classroom with laughter and learning and love. We worked hard and made sure to be kind, putting forth our best every single day.
And oh man, did we have fun.
I have become the educator I am because of these influences and experiences. Because of these people. I have grown immensely as a professional, found a place in the educational world, and begun to use my voice. Without my Kaneland family, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
The end of this year looks a whole lot different for all of us. And it’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to look back, remember, and feel nostalgic.
But it’s also important to look forward. To adjust our eyes to the brightness ahead and take a step toward the greatness that’s on the horizon.
Our past has shaped us. It’s molded us and prepared us and brought us to where we are now.