Stephanie has a Masters’ Degree in Literacy and Language (Education) and over 16 years experience in education. She has served as a preschool, first and second grade teacher, a reading specialist, an English language arts curriculum coordinator, an assistant curriculum director Pre-K-6th grade and a preschool curriculum consultant. Stephanie holds certifications through the MA Department of Education and the MA Department of Early Education and Care.
Do What You Love, Love What You Do
When my husband and I were first married I was also finishing up my Master’s Degree in Education. That fall I left teaching first grade, and instead became a Reading Specialist for my elementary school. To my surprise, I was also offered the position of the preschool through sixth grade Literacy Director for the district. I was eager to use all I had learned in my Master’s program, as well as my six-previous years’ teaching experience to help my district create a solid language arts curriculum, so I happily accepted. It was an exciting challenge to start a new role in my career. While in this position I serviced students in grades 1-4 who needed additional reading support, both within the classroom setting and in pull-out situations when needed. I helped my entire district choose and implement a new phonics program; leading a team through the research and evaluation of numerous programs and providing ongoing professional development when one was chosen. This all sounds like the perfect scenario, a dream come true for a person with a Master’s Degree in Literacy and Language, and yet I missed the classroom terribly. I just didn’t feel like a teacher any more, and I longed for that classroom atmosphere where I established a community of learners, created thematic lesson plans and had partnerships with parents. After sharing this with a relative, I can clearly recall her saying, “How lucky you are. You know what you love to do. There are so many who don’t know what they love by your age, and some who never find it.” She was right, I did know what I loved, and that was teaching! I decided to approach my administrators and inquire about returning to the classroom for the following year. I was lucky enough that a colleague was retiring, so I needn’t “bump” a colleague out of a classroom. I was all set, except, administration wanted me to keep the Literacy Director position as well. That was a lot of responsibility; no classroom teacher in our district had ever held such a leadership position at the same time, but I was thrilled at the offer! This was finally the perfect job for me! I could follow my passion for classroom teaching, use my knowledge of best practices in literacy education there, as well as continue to lead the literacy program of my district!
I held this position of classroom teacher and District-wide Literacy Director for three years. I loved this position immensely. During my tenure I ran a looping class where I kept my students for two years, rather than the standard one, and saw them through the first and second grade curriculum. I also helped my district through an entire English Language Arts curriculum re-write, as well as a reading program series review. As life progresses though, change is inevitable. In January of 2008 I walked away from it all. While I did love this position, and loved my career, my beautiful, new little daughter Erika needed me more. I can still see myself on my last day of teaching before the winter break, shutting off the lights to my classroom and turning around to just look over the room one more time. I was, and still am, proud of every moment experienced in that room. I was sad to leave it, yet knew a page had turned for me. I had a new love for which to care.
Being a stay at home mom was a huge adjustment for me. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my new baby and could spend hours just watching her, but every September I would feel a longing to be gearing up for a new school year. So, when Erika was 2, I decided to return to work part-time. My former school district offered me the position of Assistant Curriculum Director Pre-K-6th grade. It wasn’t teaching, but it was helping my district implement best practices in education and providing leadership and support to colleagues. This position was short lived however, because my second, precious daughter, Sonya was born that March. With two little loves at home, I was ready to stay at home for a while. I did just that, well kind of, for 5 years. During this time, I made some connections with Erika’s preschool, ended up consulting for them, and writing a thorough curriculum document for them. I worked to get my preschool teacher’s license through the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC), taught a preschool class at Erika’s school part-time, and when Sonya was 3 ½ I ended up running a preschool class for her and a few other children from my home. You can’t keep someone’s innate talents down; people have to do what they love.
Even realizing this, I was amazed at the irony of how time and life can change your priorities so quietly. As I said, I can still see that moment of looking back on my classroom, and feeling sad at walking away, but flashing forward to the summer of 2015, I can still feel the moment of panic and my hands shaking while pressing “submit” for a full-time teaching position. Teaching was my passion, but I hadn’t had a full-time classroom for a while now. Could I still do what I loved—teaching and being a mom? Both of my girls were in school full time now, so I guess it was time to see.
I count myself truly lucky to have found the teaching position I did. It was teaching first grade, an age I had adored teaching before, and it was at a small private early learning center, for one of the nicest bosses I’ll ever meet. This was a new perfect job for me. I was able to share my passion for teaching again, but my class was over in time for me to pick-up my children from school every day and be the mother I wanted to be for them. I could have stayed at this job forever, and been truly happy, but as I said, change is inevitable.
Back when I ran the 3-year-old preschool from my house, I envisioned opening a learning center of my own. It was a seed I planted and cultivated through the next few years. I did research on licensing a large group school through EEC, I revisited and modified the documents I had created while consulting for my daughter’s preschool. I took more early education courses and received my Director’s license through EEC. And as fate would have it, the preschool next to my husband’s business closed. In nature, when fall comes and some plants fade, often a seed is dropped, and it can grow the following spring and summer into a glorious new plant; it’s a cycle. Our lives have cycles too. Doing what you love, doesn’t necessarily mean you will do the same thing for your whole life. It means following where your heart leads in the present moment, and right here, right now, I’m starting a new chapter. I hope you’ll join me by seeing what we can offer your family.