Here’s What I Would Have Said

Today was the last day of the 2013-14 school year, and as always, Trinity took the time to celebrate together over lunch.  At the end-of-the-year luncheon, Trinity honors those who have worked the longest and those who are leaving.  Each year, I sit and listen to some very beautiful and kind words being said about faculty and staff members I know well and those that I barely know at all.  I also listen as those who are leaving say their parting words.  This year it was my year.

Unfortunately, as so many of you know or have gathered by now, I am not comfortable standing up and speaking to large groups of people. Strange, right?  I mean we kinda do that for a living.  We stand up in front of the most frightening creatures known to man, i.e. teenagers, day after day.  Teaching, I’ve learned, is different.  When I am teaching, it’s not about me; it’s about the content and the students so I am not self-conscious.  (Well…I’m not usually self-conscious.)  Standing up in front of 100 colleagues and speaking, however, just isn’t going to happen no matter how much I care about you. 🙂  I am much better in writing, so the following is what I would have said.

Dear Trinity Family,

Thank you so much for everything you’ve done for me over the last 6 years.  When I came to teach here, I’d never taught at the high school level before and I was overwhelmed with three preps, two of which were AP courses.  I really don’t completely understand how I got hired or why they thought I could handle the load they gave me, but I am forever thankful that they did.

I received so much support from my principal at the time (David Yohn) as well as from my colleagues.  No matter how much I might have struggled that first year, I never felt alone.  Someone always came alongside me to cheer me up and cheer me on.  Sure, they looked at me a little strangely when they first heard my midwestern accent, and sure, the name “Siebenthaler” sort of threw a lot of people for a loop, but they embraced me as part of the family anyway.

I would especially like to thank my department.  The people in my department are much more than colleagues; they are among my best friends.  Leaving them is one of the two hardest things about leaving Trinity. (Leaving students is the second.) Trip Franklin, Lucy Thrasher, and Kristi Weeks taught me so much about being a teacher to my students, but they also taught me about being a friend and a mentor.  At one point or another over the last 6 years, each has been a teacher, a friend, and a mentor to me, and sometimes they’ve all done it at the same time when I most needed it.

This year I got the chance to try my hand at administration, and I made many, many mistakes, some of which I still regret.  I can’t tell you how much I appreciated your support and your patience.  I’m really glad that I got this opportunity, however, because it’s reaffirmed for me that the thing that I’m most passionate about is teaching in the classroom and from the classroom.  I look forward to teaching history full-time again to high school juniors (my favorite grade!) in the classroom, but I also look forward to teaching other teachers…from the classroom, not an office.  I think this is where I can ultimately do the most good and serve the most people.  And so the old saying must be true, things have a way of working out for the best.   I wouldn’t have known this without this year of administrative work though, so I’m grateful to Kerry Palmer for giving me the opportunity.

I can’t wait to hear what the next few years bring to Trinity, and I hope we will keep in touch.

All the best,

Donna

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