In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, Kimberly Carpenter, a member of our Support team, shares a personal story of a teacher from her past—someone who encouraged her to always keep herself in the running.
A few days ago, I completed a “What Type of Person Are You?” survey posted on Facebook. (Don’t judge—I was taking a much needed, mind numbing break from my graduate school studies!) After answering ten vague questions, I received the message, “You Are a Revolutionary.” To be honest, I was shocked. Then, I read the description provided by Bitecharge.com: “You love seeing changes in society and progress excites you. You aren’t easily turned on by mainstream activities and the things you do always make people jealous. Your experiences and the memories you’ve had are to die for.” As I reflected on those words, I had to agree.
My life has been a whirlwind the last five years. I decided I wanted to do something that wasn’t on the “original path” I always envisioned for myself. So, I joined the ranks of public school teachers working tirelessly to make positive change in our society and impact students for the better. I’ve taken advantage of opportunities to travel around the country, meet some amazing people, and join new communities. I’ve been setting and achieving personal and professional goals that I never even knew were possible. But when did I start down this path to becoming a “revolutionary?”
There are a few breathtaking moments in life when we meet people that change us forever. We rarely get to choose who these individuals are, but we have a profound connection with them. Mrs. Ginger Belka was one such person for me. She was my 9th grade Biology teacher, Cross Country coach, and mentor who taught me that a successful leader demonstrates both compassion and determination. Through her actions on the track and in the classroom, she gave a confused teenage girl the ability to see how powerful a single caring spirit can be…even if I did have a revolutionary spirit.
To be quite honest, I remember very random pieces of information from my Biology class: DNA structures, the Krebs Cycle, and something about mitosis and meiosis. (I still can’t remember which is which!!) Nearly 15 years of life lessons have replaced those Biology classes. However, in Mrs. Belka’s class, I learned volumes about compassion, respect, and loyalty—lessons I use both in my classroom and my personal life.
Moments stand out in my mind which define our relationship, but none so much as when I had a horrible finish at a Cross Country race. I came across the finish line a whole five minutes behind the rest of my team, sobbing from pain and embarrassment. (To put it nicely, Cross Country was not my forte.) Mrs. Belka took me up in her arms and walked me away to the edge of the course and away from my teammates to calm down. She never said a word, she just comforted me. I’ll never forget the kindness and compassion she showed me in that moment. Even then, she stood by me, consoled me, and finally pushed me to pick myself up and get ready to face my next challenge. Today, I try to emulate that compassion for my students and their needs.
I still remember that one afternoon every week, when our team would practice running up and down hills in the neighborhood around our school, Mrs. Belka would always run with the girls. We would run half a mile uphill, get to the top, then run half a mile downhill, and do it all over again. Naturally, we wanted to slow down our pace to catch our breath when we were running downhill. But Mrs. Belka always said, “Run DOWN the hills, don’t coast.” Her voice in my head has often guided my decisions, pushing me to work harder and never settle until I’ve achieved my personal best.
That drive and revolutionary spirit accompanies me into my classroom, my graduate studies, and now my position at Edmodo. Through all of my personal and professional growth, I continue to think back on one amazing teacher who continues to influence my thoughts and decisions.
Thank you, Mrs. Belka. I’ll continue to press forward by changing society one classroom at a time and by always “running, not coasting, downhill.”