It Takes a Village

No, my family is not a family of teachers. In fact, I am the only teacher in my family! When I decided to leave a nearly decade-long career in luxury retail to become a high school English teacher, my family, of course, supported me (in fact, my dad cleaned my house, ran errands, and washed and gassed my car the entire time I was in graduate school), but I did not have that one person in my village who understood me, as a teacher, exactly.

As an older first year teacher, I tried the “fake ‘til you make it” strategy.  I tried not to ask too many questions because I wanted to look like I had it together, like I knew exactly what I was doing at all times. I stayed in my classroom alone trying to figure it all out. When I didn’t know what I was doing, I tried asking my family and while they listened intently, no one could give me the sage advice only a fellow teacher can. So, that method lasted about two weeks until my mom became sick and tired of hearing me rifle her with questions. I quickly realized that autonomy does not work. We cannot survive, let alone thrive, alone as little islands drifting in the open waters of education. We must find those teachers who become our “village.”

I have been beyond lucky to have been raised by a village of amazing teachers.  My village is comprised of incredible, kind, insightful, engaging, and fabulous fellow teachers. When I started reaching out and asking questions of both veteran and newer educators, I started to realize the importance of cultivating authentic relationships with my colleagues. And from each person, I learned something new and valuable that positively impacted my teaching and myself.

From Sydney, I learned to be my authentic self with my students, to show them I’m a real person. From Angelique, I learned to gracefully handle difficult situations and the balance of work life and home life. And when in doubt, just think, “What would Sydney and Angelique do?” From Heather, I learned to monitor, adapt, and adjust at all times, no matter what. From Christa, I learned that humor and laughter are the keys to teaching. From Viviana, I learned kids are incredible and it’s simply our job to give them the opportunity to shine. (And to be fearless enough to take 65 kids camping!) From Sheila, I learned to value and share my voice and experience. From Nicole, I learned what differentiated instruction actually looks like and to challenge every kid at every level.  From Michelle, I learned to be vulnerable and reflect on my practice.

These women are my village. They are the support and guidance that we all need in order to thrive in this amazing profession. So, I ask you, “Who is your village?”



Leah Clark

Leah Clark

Phoenix, Arizona

I joined the teaching profession after spending several years in luxury retail. While the free clothes and handbags were definite job perks, I felt burned out and tired of long hours, weekends and holidays. So, I went back to school to become a teacher and have never looked back. I love my job!
My teaching philosophy is simple: Do what’s best for kids. While it’s not eloquent, this humble phrase directs every decision I make about teaching and students. As a Language Arts teacher at a central Phoenix high school, it’s my honor and passion to create opportunities for students to communicate, collaborate, create and connect with one another and the world around them.
When I am not grading a stack of essays, planning a new lesson, or chaperoning a school dance, I love riding my yellow Huffy bicycle around town, sampling a new restaurant, and traveling to Flagstaff with my husband.

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