Sunday, February 20, 2011

Certified

I just renewed my teaching certificate for the eighth time, which means I've had nine certificates, with this newest one being good through 2016, for a total of 45 years of teaching certification. In the state of Georgia, you must be certified in order to teach in all public schools and most of the private ones. A certificate is good for five years and, at the end of every five years, you have to renew it. The requirements for re-certification usually include evidence of staff development and that you haven’t done anything dastardly to a kid.

But this story isn’t so much about my teaching. It’s about my life. My nine certificates, so far, have spanned 40 years, my entire adult life, and thinking about each one takes me back.

My first certificate arrived in 1971, along with my 21st birthday, my college diploma, and my marriage license. I thought I would teach for a few years until my children came along, and then I would morph into a full-time mom, baking and ironing and donning high heels when hubby came home from work. I remember my mother telling me that I needed to have a college degree in case my husband died and I had to support myself. For that first year after we married, Gary was finishing up Pharmacy School at the University of Georgia and I taught first grade in Barrow County.

In 1976, I renewed my certificate for the first time. By then, Gary and I had moved to Greenville, South Carolina, where we'd had our first born, Melissa, and had then moved back to his home town of Warner Robins, Georgia because his father wasn’t doing well and his mother had just died. We couldn’t sell our house in Greenville, so we lived with Gary’s daddy for about six months. It was during that time that I became pregnant with Billy, which I remember as being a big surprise.  Now, I'm also a little surprised that I bothered to renew my certificate at all,  since what I was intent on at the time was birthing babies and decorating nurseries.  I do remember Gary looking at me in the grocery line one day and saying he didn't know how we were going to make it financially if I didn't go back to teaching.  That's about the time I realized the rules for women had changed from when my mother had given me her college-degree advice, and so I began to re-think my life plan.

My first day teaching after having kids.  Notice the open window.  It was late August with no air conditioning in the schools.

In 1981, during the time of my next renewal, I was teaching full time, I’d just finished my Master’s Degree, and I could tell that something had shifted in me. I was no longer a mother who happened to be a teacher. I was a professional woman who also happened to be a mother. That was also about the time I decided I wanted to go to law school, so I took the LSAT and did quite well, leading me to apply to law school at Mercer University. I was accepted but ultimately decided not to go. I didn’t really want to be a lawyer; I just wanted to have the opportunity to keep on going to school.

 This pretty much sums up my educational philosophy both then and now.
My son, Billy, was in this kindergarten class.

Five years later in 1986, I received my fourth certificate in the midst of working on my Specialist’s Degree and just before my third child’s second birthday. Molly had been a bit of a surprise when she'd arrived, but, although I was certainly happy to have her and loved her just as dearly as I loved the first two, her wonderfulness didn't stop me from my commitment to moving up within my profession.  She probably wouldn't have survived if Barbara, our neighbor, hadn't stepped in to be my much better suited stand-in.  Then, in 1987, I was offered my first out-of-classroom assignment, a job that had me traveling all over the state, training teachers in an early childhood program.  I was pretty full of myself by then and it was wearing on my marriage.

The professional woman juggling work, kids, Molly's blanket, and a cat.

By 1991 when  my fifth certificate arrived in the mail, I was in the midst of a divorce and a doctoral program.  I wasn't traveling as much with my job, but my degree quest had me engaging in a 240 mile round trip to the University of Georgia at least one evening a week.  In 1993, I became an elementary principal, a position I kept for five years.

In 1997, one year after I received my sixth certificate, I finished my Doctorate in Educational Leadership and started my quest to see what my next job would be.  The Dean of Education at Georgia Southwestern State University called and asked if I wanted to join the faculty there.  I did,  and so I left a job paying $80,000 a year for one paying about $52,000.  Although my life as a college professor was much less grueling than my life as a principal, the pay sucked and at some point I realized I'd educated myself into a much lower paying job.

Year 2001 brought an attack on America and my seventh certificate.  I was still at the college and enjoying it, but I worried that my relatively low salary would affect my retirement benefits, so I checked around to see if I could find a job with better pay.  That came with the Department of Education and a move to Atlanta in 2005.  I loved Atlanta but wasn't crazy about the job and what I really wanted was to teach children again before I hung up my professional hat..

By 2006, I had a new job teaching second graders in a wonderful school in Buckhead, which brought renewed meaning to my seventh renewal and my eighth certificate.  I'd come full circle and was back doing what I'd set out to do back in 1971.

So, here I am to now, with my ninth certificate, which came to me the same week as my 61st birthday.  For the first time, it wasn't mailed.  Instead, I had to download it from the Professional Standards Commission website before I could print it.  One of my young teacher friends seemed perplexed as to why I needed to print it at all since it was safely stored on the PSC website.  She didn't know about the other eight, safely kept in a drawer in my living room, evidence of a well-lived (or at least well-intended) life.
I've been contemplating retirement of late, but I'm now thinking I  might stay on a while longer since I still enjoy my job (most days). 

After all, I'm certified for five more years.

How could you not love working with people this size all day?

26 comments:

Karen Young said...

This was wonderful,Marcia! I enjoyed reading "where you came from" and "where you've gone" since I was in Warner Robins. I OFTEN tell colleagues about my wonderful first principal who was so strong in early childhood. I credit you with helping me get on the road to a career that I love...I have a few more certificates to catch up with you, but ultimately it is worth it for our pint-sized "employers"! Karen Young

MaryB said...

I loved hearing about your educational journey. It's interesting and revealing in how it also relates to your life. They're all tied together. What a wonderful journey and the educational system was/is certainly better for having you a part of it.

Linda Myers said...

Marcia, I like how you've tied your life together by using your certificates as markers. I do the same with houses I've lived in.

Bobby Gail said...

I do it with husbands :)

marciamayo said...

Bobby, that's hilarious. I do it some with pets but, thank goodness, I only had one husband. That was quite enough.

Olga said...

I had a hard time picking you out in that 1st picture...so young looking. You have had a fruitful career, it sounds like. I renewed my VT license for 7 years the year I retired (Just is case, I guess.) When you mentioned 9 certificates, I thought you were meaning certified to teach in 9 different areas (my middle-high school perspective).

marciamayo said...

Olga, in Georgia, we have only one certificate with all our concentrations written on it. I do have quite a few concentrations but that doesn't mean I should teach all of those things (or actually anything).

Cile said...

I am in awe of you, Marcia...seriously! All the lives you have touched and all the knowledge you have shared! Absolutely amazing! And now you write it all out, inspiring others! This makes me want to consider my own milestones. Thank you for sharing this insightful romp through your teaching renewals.

Friko said...

Clever Marcia!
A life well lived with plenty to be proud of.

But I have to tell you: the expression 'to be certified' means to be written off as a madwoman in the UK. Beware, you might end up in a psychiatric hospital if you ever came over here.

marciamayo said...

Friko, that's kind of true here too, which made me like the title even better.

Kate said...

Nicely done, Marcia. A wonderful way to chart the past. I used to do it with jobs, until I'd had so many that it began to be embarrassing. : )

Jean said...

What an interesting post, and what an amazing career. I must admit, though, that after reading of your teaching/administering, I now realize my piddly 36 years as a high school English teacher "don't amount to $hit," and here I'd been making myself believe I was some kind of hero for surviving it that long! I decided to retire the year I realized I absolutely could not read one more pile of students' essays. I don't regret having been a high school English teacher, but doing so certainly robbed me of weeknights, weekends, and summer vacations. I suspect your students adore you, and I'm not surprised.

marciamayo said...

Jean, my daughter has a degree in English and, although she's getting a Master's Degree in Special Ed (to get her foot in the door) what she absolutely wants to be is an English teacher. I think English teachers have changed more lives than any other kind of teacher. You should be very proud of your career.

Wisewebwoman said...

Ah so you're certifiable. I knew that.

I love how you've twined the threads of your life story like a piece of knitting.

Wonderfully written (as always!)

XO
WWW

joared said...

I think you should branch out and get some more and different certificates. You have room for them in that drawer, don't you??? I know what you mean about keeping going. I keep renewing my license and national certification, taking all those necessary continuing education classes, even though I only work part time now. Just seems like the better part of wisdom as who knows what might change in the future. Right???

marciamayo said...

Joared, those certificates are who I am, at least to a certain extent.

LC said...

Like Linda Myers noted, tying your life's journey together through your teaching certificates was great and provided a telling look at your passion for education as well as snapshots of what was going on in the world as you progressed. I, too, like that you are definitely certifiable!

schmidleysscribblins.wordpress.com said...

Wow, I love this. I can identify with so many things. Its amazing how our lives can be measured by teacups, teaching certificates and degrees.

Your drive to Geogia one night a week to work on a degree sounds familiar. Also, the cat, the blanket and the kids. Beautiful photos Marcia. You've come a long way baby!!

Celia said...

Quite a life! And more to come, good for you.

I Wonder Wye said...

YOU m'dear, are totally awesome! And how can someone who works as hard as you do still look so gorgeous?! Lucky you. My mom was a teacher when we were growing up -- in the '60s most moms didn't work, and I always admired her professionalism...she started teaching in the '50s and retired in the '80s -- I have so much respect for teachers, thank you for your commitment.
ps: My favorite photo was the blankie and the cat -- what was the story behind all that??! And, have you remarried?

Brighid said...

Your tapestry in certificates of a life is beautiful. You Rock!

Anonymous said...

Once on a mission with the Methodist Church to Ireland with a friend who told the people he is a Certified Lay Speaker. They had a big laugh, and told him there "Certified" is the term they use for someone committed to mental hospital.
Gene

LC said...

Loved your Let It Roll contribution to the Elder Storytelling place on TGB. Your way of capturing experiences entertains and unlocks memorable experiences for your readers. Thanks!

Vagabonde said...

You have had an interesting career and so many degrees. Did you grow up in Georgia? It must have been something here in the 50s and 60s. What do you think about Wisconsin‘s Republicans saying that teachers are not worth much and are overpaid?

marciamayo said...

Vagabonde, I grew up in Savannah, which was a wonderful place to be a child. Since I'm not a big fan of republicans anyway, I'm not all that surprised at what's going on in Wisconsin.

Freda said...

A wonderful testimony to an active and special life. Thanks for sharing your journey and especially the photos. It is all over so quickly when we look back on it. I hope you relish and enjoy the time covered by this new teaching certificate.