Best Year

August 6, 2018

After 18 years of teaching in an elementary school in rural eastern North Carolina, it was time for a change. But I definitely didn’t get the change I had in mind. When an opening in a school in a neighboring county was available, I pursued it quietly, just as we do in the South. It was my dream job, and sure enough, I got it: small classes, administrative and parental support, a degree of professional autonomy I hadn’t known since I taught in New York years ago. I was immediately accepted and valued, and I thrived. So much so that I planned to spend the remaining years of my career until retirement blissfully teaching and learning in that same place. It was the best year of my career – until I was fired.

A “reduction in force” meant the last person hired would be the first to be fired, and, despite the herculean efforts of my principal, I was let go. It was the worst end to the best year of my life.

Along came another opening, another “show.” My interview for a mystifying job as an Early College Liaison at a high school in the same district felt more like an audition. The commute was longer, but otherwise it was a dream job of which I’d never dreamed. It meant more money, flexing a different skill set, less stress, and an opportunity to learn. Teenagers weren’t as scary as I had anticipated. I made a difference for some and became a lifelong friend to others. I was even involved in the exchange program with Salzgitter, Germany. It was a year of joyful exploration and growth, until the institution administering the grant that funded my salary abruptly and unexpectedly closed.  I had lost another dream job. That made two jobs lost in my entire life and both in the same year.

I didn’t have time to mourn, though. Soon I found myself having to choose between taking a Praxis® battery to become a high school science teacher and returning to the wonderful elementary school I had loved in the same classroom in which I had flourished the year before. Ultimately, the choice that was a better fit for my true calling, my passion, and yes, my area of National Board Certification, won – I returned to the elementary school I loved. This story is neither a “silver lining” anecdote nor an “it was meant to be” tale at all. It’s about the process of self-reflection and professionalism that has remained with me since my initial National Board Certification and subsequent renewal. I am capable and driven to be the best I can be, regardless of the challenges.

Another year of teaching 3rd Grade is in the books. It’s still a dream job. I’m writing this from the airport on my second trip to Germany with high school students. Salzgitter is a small town whose people see it a little differently when we share the way it looks through our eyes. They do the same for us when they visit. This has all the trappings of another “best year.”

Amy Barsanti, NBCT

Amy Barsanti has been teaching for 31 years, the last 22 in North Carolina, and currently teaches 3rd grade at Jamesville Elementary School. She is a National Board Certified Teacher and has renewed her certification. She has a BA in Communication Arts and Theater, an MS in Elementary Education, and an MEd in Science Education with STEM concentration, which began with a NASA Endeavor STEM Education Teacher Certification Fellowship. Barsanti is published in many periodicals, including Mailbox, Parents Magazine, and Teacher’s Helper.