My life has come full circle, and I have arrived back where I began my career.
Following the completion of my Master’s Degree in History, I served as a Graduate Teaching Assistant at the University of Nevada – Las Vegas. I then pursued my professional career as an advertising copywriter. After honing my craft at Equinox International, I branched out on my own and began taking freelance assignments. To fill in the void, I substituted at my children’s elementary school. It was the perfect “mommy track” gig.
In 1997, a friend from grad school – who was now the Social Studies Department Chair at my older kids’ high school – asked me to help her out by substituting in a World History and U.S. History vacancy position for a couple of weeks. It was the toughest job I ever had, and I absolutely loved it! The two weeks turned into the entire semester, and if I had been certified as a teacher, I would have had the job permanently. (A Master’s Degree in History and teaching experience at the university level was sadly not enough.)
Nevertheless, I had found my calling. I applied to the Urban Teaching Partnership Program at UNLV and was accepted for the 1999-2000 cadre. This one-year, fast-track, alternative route to licensure was restricted to individuals who already had a Master’s Degree or Ph.D. in their subject area. The 20 of us student-taught the entire school year at Eldorado High School, and our professors met with us at Eldorado after school to provide instruction.
Given my love for the arts, I proclaimed my dream position would be at the Las Vegas Academy for International Studies and the Performing Arts. One of my mentor teachers actually laughed at my hubris in thinking that I had a chance at one of the most highly recognized schools in the nation. I personally questioned whether I would get hired at all as there were three strikes against me: my age (39 at the time), I possessed no talent at sports and thus could not serve as a coach (Social Studies teachers are notorious for also being coaches), and with a Master’s Degree plus the additional credits I received in my teaching certification program, I would be coming in at the top of the pay scale (a genuine disincentive for administrators trying to keep expenses down). I only received one call to interview for a teaching position, and it was from Las Vegas Academy. The Social Studies Department Chair was a fellow Californian, and as two beachbums, we immediately hit it off. I became the lead World History teacher and expanded my repertoire to include International Cultures. I wrote the first Latin American History class for our school district, participated in student exchange trips to Ukraine and Russia, and coached three state champion WorldQuest teams, for which I received the Teacher of the Year Award from the Las Vegas World Affairs Council.
In 2007, my grad school friend – who launched my teaching career by inviting me to long-term sub nine years earlier and who had relocated to Advanced Technologies Academy – recruited me to come there and launch an AP World History program. Ready for a new challenge, I accepted. Two years in, after my friend retired, I was appointed as the Social Studies Department Chair. From 2008 until I left in 2014, my students had the highest AP World History scores in the district – and probably the state. I got my students involved with the National History Day Program with great success. Every year, my students dominated the state competition, and I was acknowledged by receiving the National History Day Teacher of the Year Award for Nevada in 2011. I organized 32 oral history interviews for my students to conduct with Civil Rights leaders, local politicians, and Holocaust survivors, providing memorable experiences and excellent material for recommendation letters. My students continued to excel at WorldQuest, winning the state championship every year I coached (2011-2014). I advised the multicultural RESPECT club, which held an annual festival that featured student and community-based entertainment, along with family-prepared and restaurant-donated food. Attendance at “Culture Night” regularly surpassed 600. During that time, I received several grants to participate in study tours around the world. I was clearly leading a charmed life.
As if teaching was not enough, I became involved with a non-profit. In 2006, I was invited to join the board of the Nevada Council for History Education, and in 2010, I was appointed as the Director. In this position, I planned, hosted, and presented educational seminars: The Civil Rights Movement in Southern Nevada (2010), Native Americans in Southern Nevada (2011), The Las Vegas Mob Connection (2012), WWII From a Largely Nevada Perspective (2013), Vegas Cultural History: The Golden Era (2014), and Notorious Nevadans (2015). To help finance these seminars, I wrote and executed numerous grants. To better manage this organization, I completed a Non-Profit Management Certification program through the University of Nevada – Las Vegas in 2011. Although I stepped down as Director in order to pursue other ventures, I remain on the board to this day.
Always seeking new opportunities, I left Advanced Technologies Academy to serve in a one-year, grant-funded position as a Social Studies Project Facilitator for the Clark County School District – the 5th largest district in the nation. During the 2014-2015 school year, I planned and organized professional development and supported diverse academic activities including National History Day, WorldQuest, We The People, Model UN, C3 Framework, DBQ Project, and AP Support, in addition to writing every Social Studies-related position paper.
While serving as Social Studies Project Facilitator, I was accepted into a 2nd Master’s Degree Program: the Urban Leadership Development Program through the Greenspun College of Urban Affairs at UNLV. My focus was in Multicultural Education and Critical Pedagogy. When I returned to the classroom following my one-year Project Facilitator position, I selected the largest Title I school in Nevada, which was also my husband’s alma mater – Western High School. To be honest, teaching at-risk students was a huge challenge that came with equally huge rewards. For my main project, I organized a mentorship program for students who had been expelled from previous schools. The students who regularly attended class thrived under the support of their mentors, but sadly, most of the targeted students rarely came to class and were simply too far removed from academics for help. However, another program I pioneered was a measurable success. I instituted a points-based grading system during the second semester to replace the “Minimum F” grading policy that was in place throughout the school. Basically, with a “Minimum F” system, students get 50% minimum on every assignment whether they complete it or not. The idea is that with the traditional system, students who fall behind for whatever reason have little hope of ever catching up and passing the class. With the “Minimum F” policy, a student can blow off most assignments, but as long as they successfully complete a few activities, they will pass. For my points-based grading system, students needed 100 points to get a “D”, 200 points for a “C,” 300 points for a “B”, and 400 points for an “A”. I provided a menu of options for each unit, including writing prompts, project-based activities, group activities, notebook checks, and exams. Unlike the “Minimum F” policy that supported laziness and apathy, my points-based system rewarded accomplishment, and it achieved results.
Life does not always go as planned. While my intention was to pursue education management/administration, a health issue intervened. I had two vertebrae in my neck fused during the summer of 2014. When I returned to work, it was in the Project Facilitator position and all went well. However, when I went back to the classroom the constant repetitive head movement from taking attendance, entering grades, and scanning students in the classroom did me in. Continuing to work 70 hours a week as a teacher or an administrator was not medically advised. So I took my retirement.
Welcome to Act Three!
After my 20-year hiatus, I am ready to return to writing.
To be clear, I never stopped writing. As an educator, I wrote lectures and lesson plans on a daily basis. I successfully wrote travel and funding grants. I wrote professional development courses, district and state Social Studies Standards, and even test items for the GED. Better than that, I taught students how to write from the most basic to the most complex levels. I coached AP World History students on how to master the three essay formats for the exam, and I coached educators on how to write for National Board Certification. I am now ready and anxious to branch out.
For a sampling of what I have produced in the past as a copywriter, blogger, and academic, check out my portfolio. My interests are diverse, as is my experience. I have a couple of big projects in play, but I am also looking for freelance opportunities. Although my previous copywriting projects largely focused on products and services, my academic background and position paper experience make me a natural for writing white papers and other research-based, technical formats.
Twenty years ago, every door opened for me to pursue teaching as a career, and I had the good sense to walk through those doors. My time as a world history teacher shaped who I am as a person and made me an even better writer. While amazing opportunities and experiences came my way as an educator, a new door is opening and I am excited for the challenges and adventures that await me.
If you or one of your contacts are in need of personal or professional writing services, I would be happy to consult with you.