From Teacher to Educator: A lifelong process

I never wanted to be a French teacher. I knew I wanted to pursue French after high school and that I wanted to study abroad for my junior year of college. I thought to myself, “I’ll be a diplomat who travels, speaks on global issues and makes the world a better place.” I actively rejected the idea of taking education classes, yet wasn’t drawn to business (too complicated) or political science (too corrupt) or psychology (too much math).

So when I took an Introduction to Adolescent Psychology class to fulfill a science requirement my freshman year of college and found it beyond fascinating, I reluctantly decided that teaching actually made a lot of sense with my interests and natural abilities. I love people and am fascinated by how the brain works. I am perceptive, organized, charismatic and stubborn. The practical side of me realized these predilections and skills could be utilized in a classroom setting so I declared a double major in education, spent my junior year abroad in Nice, then spent my senior year student teaching and finalizing the million details that would certify me as a teacher.

There were certain aspects of teaching that I absolutely loved such as creating engaging lessons to inspire my students, fostering a safe and fun classroom community, planning social and school spirit events, witnessing students take risks in my class and surprising themselves, and the sense of connection among my colleagues. I committed to this profession and set myself very strict boundaries so that I would not burn out since I knew that was common in teaching. I decided not to take work home and limited how early or how late I could stay at school. I structured my class with lessons that did not include a ton of grading, and I reused activities, projects and assessments with new vocabulary and grammar so I didn’t have to prepare something completely original for each unit. I managed to devote myself to being the best teacher I could be while also allowing myself the opportunity to enjoy life outside of the classroom.

And yet, a cycle began in 2008 that would repeat for thirteen years: starting out excited/terrified for the new school year, building relationships with my students, having challenging parents, receiving a range of support from administration, coaching sports after school, running clubs and camps, being an administrative assistant, getting burned out, looking for new jobs, deciding that no one would ever hire a teacher who hasn’t worked outside of the education system, getting refreshed over the summer while also working part-time jobs, and returning to the classroom for just ONE more year. I kept hoping for a magical career to appear that would fit with all my strengths and interests that would whisk me out of the classroom and into the world. So until that happened, I would continue in a job that revealed to me the best and worst of humanity.

I did this until the middle of the 2020-2021 school year where I reached a breaking point. Teaching during the pandemic showed me a lot of inequities and restrictions that had previously held me from growing into my full potential both as an educator and as an informed citizen of the world. Not only that, but I realized that I was perpetuating harmful cycles because of how I structured my class and my unrealistic expectations of my students. The stress and overwhelm that a teacher experiences on a daily basis was amplified to untenable heights and there was no hope of an end in sight or help coming on the horizon.

So I made the difficult decision to leave the classroom even though I loved my position, students and colleagues. I initially thought I would go into tutoring because I love helping students – after all, this was the thing I had been doing for thirteen years and had a Master’s in! As I prepared to shift to being a business owner and considered reaching out to parents to get clients, I felt this block in my throat that prevented me from taking certain steps forward. Did I really want to use all my interests and skills the same way I had been in my career? Or was this the opportunity to create the magical career that would whisk me out of the classroom and into the world?

I sat with these questions while I was still dealing with the extreme stressors of my daily job and noticed a little voice was whispering to me. I felt a pull away from students but wasn’t sure in what direction it led. This little voice kept whispering and eventually yelled, “YOU WANT TO SUPPORT TEACHERS!” In my time as an administrative assistant, I was privileged enough to work with teachers on professional development by providing funding and access to opportunities that would enrich their lives and classrooms. Some of the projects these teachers did were absolutely incredible and I remember thinking to myself, “Why don’t people understand the magic that teachers perform in their classrooms on a daily basis?”

I did some research to see what was currently available to teachers that extended beyond surface-level support. Professional development is a requirement for all teachers to maintain their continuing education, and many schools also provide discounts to health and fitness facilities. This meant that their minds and bodies were taken care of but I dug deeper, wondering about their social, emotional and spiritual well-being.

These are the questions that kept driving me:

How can teachers learn to take care of themselves in a system that was never designed with their humanity in mind?

In what ways can they access opportunities to reconnect with the curiosity, joy and fulfillment that got them into this profession?

What would it be like to model mental, physical, emotional, social and spiritual wellness and perpetuate new cycles of learning that center well-being?

Empowering Educator’s mission is to aid in birthing a new educational model that empowers educator self-care, intellectual, social, emotional, spiritual, and physical wellness. The vision is to be the premier choice of private and public middle schools for holistic, technologically-integrative, multidisciplinary, and deeply-supportive educator personal and professional development solutions for optimum wellness.

In starting this new life as an entrepreneur, I knew that I could handle anything that came my way after my time as a teacher. Time management? Got it! Multi-tasking? No problem! What I didn’t expect was how much growing and reconnecting with myself I had to do to even begin to have a tenable relationship with my business. I was now my own boss and had to figure out new ways of speaking to myself that did not perpetuate the same cycles I had been subjected to in the education system. I relearned how to set boundaries on my time and energy, give myself grace to rest and engage in creative flow, not act from a scarcity mindset, model vulnerability about my big ideas, as well as to face and work within my limitations. I have utilized all the skills that I brought to the table when I started teaching and have added on resiliency, tenacity, prescience and equanimity.

This is still a burgeoning journey, but one that I am deeply passionate about and excited to witness unfold. I tapped into my relationships with former colleagues to prototype the services I want to offer and envision the community I desire to facilitate. I reached out to heads of school, directors of teaching and learning, principals and teachers to see where there might be parallel hopes in terms of educator support. I am figuring out my digital presence and how to connect with those who also want answers to the questions I kept asking.

Throughout this process, I realized that the type of support and guidance I wanted to provide to educators is exactly what I needed to structure for myself. I’m still unlearning the internalized structures that have restricted and prevented my growth as an individual and informed citizen of the world, which is an ongoing and nonlinear process. I am finding ways of fulfilling my mental, physical, social, emotional and spiritual well-being while designing a curriculum for educators to do the same.

As someone who has spent my entire career focused on my mental acuity, it was
time to tap back into my body, heart, soul and spirit to create the magical career that would fit all my strengths and interests. It is a challenging and stupefying journey but it has led me to some of the most profound personal revelations that have greatly informed the choices I have made with this work in this life. I know that I am at the beginning of a very long and rich relationship with myself and my business so that I am better able to support those around me. So much of what I am creating is uncharted territory both personally and professionally, which I believe has finally helped me transition out of being the teacher I never wanted to be and into the educator I have always been. Having the vision and space to create new ways of thinking, doing, being, and interacting without restrictions is what being a teacher is all about.
Photo credit: Image provided by the storyteller.

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Carrie Rohrbach Meyers

Carrie Rohrbach Meyers (she/her) is passionate about supporting educators so that they embody and model balance, joy, curiosity and fulfillment for their learners. With a Master's degree in curriculum and instruction and over thirteen years of experience in public and private schools, Carrie has taken her love of education out of the classroom to help guide educators back to themselves. As a French teacher who experienced burnout during the COVID-19 pandemic, Carrie started Empowering Educator, a virtual, soul-centered, empathetic solution for educational and emotional support. She is thrilled to engage in her life’s work of empowering every educator to center their own well-being and see the ripple effect in school communities.