I am first and foremost a teacher. I have been formally teaching in some capacity for the past 22 years. However, my first “student” was my younger sister, Anna, whom I taught to read when she was four years old and I was seven. That was in 1974.
I am a product of the St. Bernard Parish Public Schools (1972-85). I attended P.G.T. Beauregard High School, where I graduated salutatorian. In 1983, at fifteen years old, I tried to drop out of high school. I’m glad I stayed.
I attended Louisiana State University from 1985 to 1991 and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in secondary education, English and German. I taught for two years in St. Bernard, my home; then, I moved to Georgia and taught German (1993-94) and English (1994-98) for Rome City Schools. While teaching full time, I earned my masters degree in guidance and counseling from the State University of West Georgia (1996-98).
While working on my masters degree, I became interested in counselor education. I applied to the Ph.D. program in counselor education at Auburn University and was rejected because I “did not compare favorably to other applicants.” I framed that letter and kept it in my office at Ball State; years later, I was able to use it as an encouragement for my students who came to me in tears at receiving doctoral program rejection letters. It hurts, but press on.
I was accepted to the counselor education program at the University of Northern Colorado in 1998, and they gave me money to attend. (The Auburn rejection didn’t hurt so much then.) I began my Ph.D. in counselor education but decided I liked all of those stats courses well enough to ask to transfer to the Department of Applied Statistics and Research Methods two years in, in February 2000. I graduated with my Ph.D. in applied statistics and research methods, with a counselor education concentration, in August 2002.
Following my time in Colorado, I moved to Muncie, Indiana, to teach in the Department of Educational Psychology, Teachers College, at Ball State University. I taught graduate-level statistics and research courses, except for one undergraduate course I taught, Tests and Measurement. It was in this course that I had to address issues related to No Child Left Behind. It was in this course that I taught students how bad an idea it was to attempt to measure teacher performance using student standardized test scores.
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina destroyed my home, New Orleans. My mother chose not to evacuate and had to axe her way out of my sister’s attic. She was missing for a week and ended up in Houston. It was a while before she knew that she would not have to have her right arm amputated.
Even though there was no home to go to, I wanted to go home to New Orleans. It took me two years to plan and reorganize my life for my return to southern Louisiana.
In July 2007, I returned home and began a new job teaching high school English in St. Tammany Parish. I was told at the university that to “go back” to public school teaching was frowned upon and that I would not likely be able to resume a careeer teaching at the university level if I chose to replace it with a public school position.
I had to reckon with that idea.
But I love to teach. High school, I decided, would be fine with me.
And it has been fine for the past seven years. I love my kids.
I dedicate this blog to my St. Tammany students and to the thousands of students I have taught over the years, students of all ages, chiefly from grade seven to graduate-level, beginning with my little sister, Anna.