It was August of 2015, I was in the middle of the hustle trying to get everything set for what was to be my 4th year at Christian Life Schools when the Middle School Principal asked me to go with him to talk with our new superintendent. It was three minutes later when he told me they were going to cut my position due to budget problems and I was going to be unemployed as of September 11th, just three weeks away. I spent the last three weeks keeping the news from my students as I worked hard to make sure everything was handed off to my coworkers who were going to take on my responsibilities. September 11th came and went and after many tearful goodbyes and a few prayers, I left CLS after an amazing three and half years. I then spent the next two weeks searching high and low, staying up late, trying to crunch every number while I desperately searched for a new position. Then I received a phone call from a charter school about needing a new Technology Coordinator and I stepped and not even 24 hours later, I was offered the position and started just a few days later.
I step into a world full of chromebooks, iPads, different teachers, administration and most importantly new students. Very bright students, but ones that needed someone who could help guide them into new forms of learning with technology and innovation. After a whirlwind of a first year and hitting the ground running. I came to call the entire staff friends and came to see the sparks of engagement in these students. At the end of the school year, I was offered the promotion to be the Manager of Campus Technology and would be teaching an enrichment class of S.T.E.A.M to all of the students on a two week rotation while teaching Middle School every quarter. I jumped at the chance and returned to teaching in a classroom on a more regular basis, but boy was it an adventure. Something I had not had to deal with on a regular basis was teaching to different students with different attitudes, different learning styles, and different outlooks on learning in general. I have to admit, there were many days I didn’t know how I got through those classes. Some were days that no one wanted to listen and other days when we were so far ahead, I had to think on my feet. However, thanks to my amazing Instructional Coach and my willingness to never give up, I made it through and in the process both I and my students learned together
It’s not to say that all days weren’t full of similar challenges and like many educators, there were days you wanted to rest your head down and hope you could make it through a day. Yet, every day I loved going to Jackson and working with the wide variety of teachers and students every day. However, as we know, living in Illinois, I am not immune to the State’s budget crisis and a few weeks ago, I was told my contract was not going to be renewed for the next school year. Was I in shock? Yes. Was I upset? Of course I was, but what did I do when I was told the news. I told them I understood, said how much I had such a great time the last two years and shook hands and thanked them for taking me in. They in turn told me how great of a job I had done the last two years and how much the staff and students always were told good to great things about me. I then got up, gathered up my things and began my process of making sure my toys would be put away correctly for the next person and began the process I did at CLS of getting things set up before my last day, which is June 30th.
The last two years I have been at Jackson have been some of the most incredible days I have had in the last few years. I was thrown out of my comfort zone and I don’t mean thrown a few feet. I mean I landed in the next town over when I left CLS and entered Jackson. There were days I wondered if I could really do my job or be able to rise above my fears and being a regular teacher again while juggling the responsibilities of keeping our tech together and fixing any problems that came up. I will tell you, in my position, there were days where it’s a simple problem with the printer to days where the entire wi-fi wants to not work for some reason. However, there wasn’t a day that went by where I didn’t here a: “Thank you.” or “How do you do this? You are amazing.” Those were words that got me through when there were no thank yous and feeling I had fallen into the dunk tank, yet I never gave up and I became better as a result.
While I have said my goodbyes to both my friends and students, I can look back and not feel any regrets. My days at Jackson were challenging, but also rewarding. I became better during my two years at the school and I know I made a difference during my time there. I remember talking to my 8th graders this year as they graduated and many of them told me: “Thank you Mr. Read, for putting up with me and knowing I could do it.” It was there I knew I made a difference to these kids and while many will not see me in the fall, I know I can leave knowing that I did make a difference in their lives and they will have bright futures ahead.