Falling Back In Love

September 28, 2021 | by CHELSEA SUGASKI | High School English Teacher at FLA

From Kindergarten onward, I knew I wanted to be a teacher. There was never another career in my mind (except those few weeks when I thought I could be a ballerina… we can all see how that turned out).

What I wanted to teach changed through the years. First it was kindergarten, then third grade, then fifth. I settled on High School English around 9th grade. Being paid to read books! Sign me up!

College was amazing. I was surrounded by like-minded book lovers and professors that inspired me to be the best I could be. I was enraptured with the lectures in Advanced Grammar and History of the English Language. Education classes were a toss up - I was one of perhaps three students seeking a secondary education certification. Most classes were geared toward elementary teachers, and I had to figure out how to adapt.

Student teaching was a whirlwind. (It began with my passing out in front of a class of juniors.) Fourteen weeks with an eccentric mentor teacher who never wrote lesson plans or had a seating chart kept me on my toes. He taught me the importance of relationships and accommodating those kids who don't fit the mold.

But finally, I was in my own classroom. Student teaching is helpful, but it never truly prepares you for being in your own room with your name on the door and no safety net below. I began my teaching career in a small high school in rural Oklahoma. I fell in love. My students were incredible, my responsibilities a delight. There were hard days - I was a first-year teacher after all. I set boundaries, made dreaded phone calls to parents, almost fell asleep at my desk after school ended a few times. But those students ingrained themselves completely into my life. I was a teacher and I was here to stay.

Until I wasn't... Only marriage could have removed me from that first school, and it did. I had a position lined up at a local public school when I arrived and walked into my new school with the naive belief that I could incorporate the same strategies I had used in my first school here. Culture shock doesn't begin to describe what I experienced. I had moved from a school of 350 students to one with 2300. Working with troubled students wasn't new to me - we had one student at my old school that every teacher worried over and fought for. But now I had 3-6 of them in every class. I was ignored, cussed at, even hit on. It wasn't all bad - I had students who worked hard and connected with me - but it was nothing like what I had experienced in Oklahoma. I would leave work most days and just cry. I prayed for red lights on the way to school because it would keep me away for that much longer. I didn't know how to function in this world. It wasn't what I had signed up for. I became callused - students were held at arm's length and the less they knew about me, the better.

I started looking for other jobs- other career fields. My heart was breaking because I knew what teaching could be. I knew what I could be as a teacher. The future before me looked dark and ominous - either I stayed and lost all that I once loved in my job, or I left and took a path different than what my entire life had been pointed toward.

I remember driving by FLA several times and reaching my hand out towards it, saying, "Hire me." It was a fruitless gesture - I felt no hope of actually finding myself there. And then one day, a friend from church informed me that an English position at FLA was going to open. I wasn't hopeful - surely someone was already in line for the position. That's how it had been at the school I student taught in - new teachers lined up and already slotted when one of the older teachers retired. But I got an interview. I remember leaving it and thinking it hadn't gone well. I emailed the principal the next day to thank him for meeting me. Within 5 minutes of hitting send, he called to offer me the position. I sobbed. I laughed. I danced around the room. My poor dog looked at me like I had lost my mind.

The calluses I had built up didn't fall overnight. It took a couple years for that bright-eyed, hopeful teacher to crawl back out of her shell. But she did. The class of 2020 made me fall back in love with teaching. And since then, I've had class after class of Freshmen who reignite that fire every year. I no longer cry as I leave school, and I no longer pray for red lights. I'm in my classroom by 6:30 because I want to be (and because I have 100 essays to grade!), not because I'm trying to mentally prepare myself for the day.

More than anything, I'm thankful for the opportunity to work in a school where Christ is the center of what we do. That's something I didn't have even in my first school. Being able to pray with my students, share my faith, and speak Biblical truth when something difficult happens has been such a blessing. I still have those hard days, but who doesn't? My Heavenly Father and Forest Lake Academy brought me back to the career I love. What more could I ask for?



Address: Forest Lake Academy
500 Education Loop, Apopka, FL 32703

Phone: 407-862-8411
Fax: 407-862-7050

Email info@forestlake.org


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