A month before my 10th birthday something happened that greatly influenced my future path. It was September 1988, on the last day of Term 3. It was also my final day at the school I attended, as my family was moving interstate during the holidays.
I was a little apprehensive about having to make new friends all over again (this move would see me starting at my 4th primary school!). I had loved that school. After a painful introduction to school in Australia with my previous one, this one had been the perfect fit for me.
All goodbyes with friends had been said, and I was waiting to see my teacher, Mrs MacDonald. She’d asked me earlier in the day to stay back after class for a few minutes.
She handed me an envelope and explained she’d bought me a going away present, but hadn’t wanted to give it to me in front of the others. I’m not a big gifts person (even then as a child), but in that moment I was thrilled. This was so totally unexpected – a present from my teacher, how nice!
There was a card with something small wrapped in tissue paper. I read the card first to be polite…and oh wow – what she wrote made me cry!! She spoke of the joy and privilege of being my teacher, spoke of character strengths in me that she’d both noticed and admired, told me how much she’d miss me, and encouraged me to pursue big dreams and goals. I had never had anyone say such lovely things to me, or about me, before. The thought that she truly liked me (other than her duty as a Teacher required)…it wrapped around me and filled my heart to bursting. I felt so loved.
How I treasured that card and her words (I still have it, tucked away in my box of treasures). Then I opened her gift. And I cried some more!!
The gift was a was silver bracelet with a heart pendant. I’d never owned anything like that before. It was so pretty, so perfect. And then I looked closer…and oh my!!! On one side of the heart she’d had my name engraved. And on the other the year.
I was completely overwhelmed by both the gift and her words in the card. As I hugged her tightly, tears flowing, I knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. A teacher. Just like her!
As I continued on through primary, and then secondary school, I never changed my mind about what I would do when I grew up.
I sometimes wonder if it wasn’t for Mrs MacDonald and her gift, might I have gone down a different path and profession? I don’t know. I suppose that’s possible. The gift was very special, and it was like a balm to the heart of the little girl I was back then (already accumulating burdens I shouldn’t have been accumulating as I struggled with issues of my identity and self-worth), so it’s natural that such a gift would trigger a response in me to want to be like the giver. But the further along I went in my schooling, and the more I had the privilege of being taught by other wonderful teachers, the more certain I became that Teaching was the path I was to take. I simply couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Even in the face of extreme pressure from leaders at my Church when I was 16 (who insisted that Nursing was the path God intended for me), I still held my ground.
The choice between Primary and Secondary was the only thing that gave me pause. In the end it was my love for the Humanities subjects (and three particularly amazing English and History Teachers) that swayed me towards choosing Secondary over Primary.
I finished high school in November 1995, then in January 1996 headed off to a University interstate to begin my BA. Because I took on extra subjects each semester and managed to complete my BA in 2 years, I was able to start my DipEd early, in 1998. I spent that year going back and forth between classes on campus and practicals at various schools (including doing a prac back at my old High School with two of my favourite Teachers – that was so special!!), and then finally, I was done.
In 1999, at the age of 20, I walked into my first classroom as a fully qualified teacher, now flying solo. On my wrist (and only just still fitting) was the treasured silver bracelet given to me 10 years earlier by Mrs MacDonald.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
I know that God directed me into my vocation. And He used a wonderful, precious woman, who will always be fondly remembered, to plant the seed. For her role in my life, and the kindness she showed me in that short time I was her student, I will forever be grateful!
“…all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:16)