Education Comes Full Circle: A Teacher Certification Journey
Through sheer determination and continued perseverance, Paulette is about to complete our online teacher certification program and become a certified Physical Education teacher and coach.
Nebraska, Junior High School, 6th grade
Paulette was identified as a “special needs” student when she entered 6th grade and was placed in special education classes for English and Math. Throughout middle school, she told her teachers that these special classes were way too easy for her.
“Sometimes adults just don’t listen to kids.”
Nebraska, High School, 9th grade
Paulette continued to tell her teachers that she didn’t belong there. She completed worksheet after worksheet in record time of two minutes apiece and spent most of her time helping other students in her classes. She soon started skipping classes due to boredom and frustration. After school, she reported to Coach Mary B. for basketball practice. Coach B. heard her cry. Although peer teachers warned Coach B. to not get involved, she approached the school counselor anyway and later called Paulette to the office behind closed doors. Paulette thought she was in trouble.
“I remember the story like yesterday. They told me to come in, sit down, and shut the door. It changed my life. They asked me if I’d like to change teachers and leave the special education classes and change to remedial classes in English and Math. They told me I was only a little bit behind in these two subjects. I remember the pressure I felt before taking my first tests in my new classes and before the tests I cut through the office to get candy from the secretary. I got a B on my first test in English and an A on my first test in Math. On one of my away basketball games, I asked Coach B. why she became a teacher. She said that when you touch just one student and that student touches someone else, you have created a great circle. Where would I be now if Coach B. hadn’t listened to me then? I always knew I wasn’t the sharpest tool but I wasn’t the dullest either.”
Nebraska, Junior College then Kansas, Wesleyan University
As one of six siblings, Paulette was the first one to go to college in her family. She had a full ride on a basketball scholarship.
“College was hard at times and English was always tough. But people told me I had a creative mind and I got to do speeches. I was a better speaker than a writer. I decided to write a book of poetry because you don’t have to use perfect grammar when you write poetry and this allowed me to have some imperfections. The name of my book is Freedom in the Power of the Pen and I still get royalties from it today. I willed myself to write it; then I got on stage and read it to hundreds of people. Coach B. still mentored me and we often would break bread together.”
Kansas, Post College
After graduating from college, Paulette worked several jobs. She coached at a local high school for a while and later served as the Project Director for a Girl Scouts council, where she started out as a receptionist.
“I soon outgrew Kansas so I went back to Nebraska and landed a job at a bank in commercial credit and I knew I wasn’t going anywhere there and I wanted excitement – so I got a recruiter, passed more tests with good scores, and told them to sign me up!”
United States Army, 1996 to 2013
Paulette signed up for the reserves and later changed to active duty. After deploying three times to Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan, she learned the power of perseverance. Working with mostly male soldiers, Paulette was a strong, assertive Staff Sergeant and later a strong, assertive Warrant Officer.
“I learned in the military that there’s a bigger picture out there. Being at war is not a place that you want anyone to be. The parents of my soldiers told me that they just wanted me to bring their son home. The military was more stressful because I was usually the only female in my class but I felt like I was making history. I was promoted. I re-enlisted. I got bonuses. At my out briefing, there was a man from Troops to Teachers who said I had the right stuff to be a teacher since I had been a coach and now an Army veteran. He said he could get me lined up with the TeacherReady Online Teacher Certification Program and he kept calling me to tell me I should enroll to become certified. I remembered my game plan when I was in college. Again, life threw me down a different road. I’ve come full circle and it looks like I’m ending up with my first love and passion of teaching and coaching kids.”
After observing Paulette’s coaching at a middle school in South Carolina, a PE teacher there asked her to substitute for him for three days. She said this was the best decision she’d ever made because she experienced that old familiar feeling and she finally felt at home. She soon enrolled in TeacherReady.
“I’ve been hooked ever since I subbed for those three days. I knew this was the piece of pie that was missing. I’m going to get that professional certificate no matter how long it takes me. Of course I’m scared of those tests and I take my first one in April. I may not be the best but I have the courage to always do my best and that’s ok with me. Our fears are our greatest enemy and put us in a 5×7 box and make us a prisoner for life. As soon as I finish this online teacher certification program, I’ll finally get my dream job of coaching and teaching.”
I imagined Paulette, a college graduate, basketball coach, US Army Veteran, and now a graduate student in the TeacherReady Online Teacher Certification Program to stand at about 5’ 10”.
At the end of our telephone interview, she told me she was 4’ 10” tall.