Seeing the three tiny, terrified faces of our first foster children as they slowly crawled out of the social worker’s van is a memory that is forever etched in my mind. The stark contrast between our excitement and their fear foreshadowed how significantly my perspective on life would change. The relationships and experiences I’ve had with the foster children showed me what it means to truly be patient, to truly love, and to truly understand.

Being a part of the transformative process that so many of these children went through ignited my passion to pursue education as a career. I attended Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida and eventually decided to make Polk County my home. My sweet husband, Gary, and our two precious children now live in Lake Alfred, Florida, a small, quiet town with a population of a little over 5,000 people. My 6-year-old daughter, Rayni, is enjoying first grade and my newborn son, Oliver, is happy to be spoiled by family members who live nearby.

My family and I enjoy spending time together by going to movies, having picnics in the park, sharing stories over family meals, and vacationing: our personal favorite. We have been blessed to be able to travel to to Hawaii twice, go on several Caribbean cruises, and experience an all-expense-paid trip to New York City to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

As incredible as my life experiences have been, I know that even more excitement and obstacles lay ahead of me. I am reminded daily that I am a work in progress. The challenges brought with each day, each relationship, and each experience serve to grow me into a better person, a stronger teacher, and a more persistent learner. It is no easy feat. It seems that in just the right moment, I receive encouragement in hearing Rayni retell the school day’s activities with a range of emotions yet gather her thoughts by saying, “I’m glad I’ve worked so hard at this. I’m getting a whole lot stronger!” Success, for Rayni and for myself, is made possible through the daily renewing of our minds, focusing our eyes on the goal and embracing each challenge as an opportunity to grow.

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Header Image Photo Credit: Cellar Door Photography