Here are the answers I wrote back to Jose.
1) How would you describe yourself as a person? Your personality? Your attitude towards life?
I am a woman who thrives on challenges and gets bored when everything’s the same for too long. Teaching is a good fit for me in that regard because the class is different every day and the materials can vary as often as I want. I used to be very shy and quiet; choices I have made as an adult have changed that considerably! I am still introverted but have learned to open up to others. To me, life is not day after day of wonder and joy waiting to be grasped. I used to think if I was a good person life would automatically be happy; I know now that happiness comes from the success that hard work brings you and from the people with whom you choose to share your life.
A little tidbit about me: I am obsessed with Wonder Woman and have a tattoo in her honor on my left shoulder. My husband designed it. It makes me feel powerful.
2) Can you go into detail how you started fencing and having a fencing studio? What age? What about fencing captured you do want to do it?
I took a fencing class my senior year at the University of Northern Iowa. In fact, I waited all those years to take it and earn my PE credit because it was a class that always filled up quickly. I really enjoyed it and wanted to continue learning about the sport but there weren’t any classes beyond that one semester. After I graduated, moved to Texas, and found a job I forgot all about fencing as I worked on establishing myself as an educator.
When I turned 30, I realized that it was time to get my adult body into shape. Not wanting to go the traditional “go to the gym and get on a treadmill” route, I found a fencing class in the catalog of the North Richland Hills recreation center. That was 12 years ago.
Now I find myself the co-owner of Cutting Edge Fencing Center, #3 in the country on the points list for my age group (as of today–it’s really close most of the time!), and excited to get to participate in a sport that is truly life-changing. It takes a lot of courage to meet someone head-to-head in “battle” with a small, one pound sabre in your hand. The skills you learn from fencing–self-reliance, decision-making, confidence, perseverance, quick thinking–all transfer over to other areas in your life. I never dreamed my life would take this path; it will be exciting to see where this takes me. Hopefully to the Veteran World Team once I turn 50…
3) How do you balance teaching at school and teaching at your fencing studio? It seems like it can take a lot of your time?
It does take a lot of time. I pretty much “work” 10-14 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week. I say “work” because I genuinely love what I do everyday and am excited to get to do it all. I currently teach French at Wesleyan, French, fencing, and Spanish at a couple of private schools in the area, coach at my club, and train year-round for competition. The vast majority of the time, I love every bit of it.
Time management is of utmost importance. Last weekend, for instance, I went to Phoenix, Arizona for a qualifying tournament and ended up grading French exams in the airport. Midterm grades were due on Tuesday! Thank goodness for technology and the workspace flexibility it provides!
We’re always looking for ways to expand our programs, while providing good service and training to our current fencers. For instance we added a weekly class at the Burleson Recreation Center last September and are hoping to expand to White Settlement and a Fort Worth high school in the fall. Hopefully we’ll be able to help Texas Wesleyan start a fencing team as well!
4) What motivates you everyday to be the best you can be?
Two things: I’ve never been able to settle for second-best. I either give my all or nothing at all. The other is the knowledge that I have the eyes of my students, our fencers and their families on me.
I strive to be a positive role model and someone I would want my child or family member to be around. I try to communicate my passion for the French-speaking world to my students and get them excited to learn about other countries through their study of French. We live in such a diverse, culturally-rich world; it’d be a shame not to explore more parts of it.
5) What advice would you give someone who wants to become a teacher and the conflicts that come with teaching?
Teaching is a double-edged sword: on the one side you have all the stress of preparation, grading, planning, adjusting to new schools/ students/ textbooks. On the other is the joy of seeing someone enrich their life and do something new thanks to your guidance. Teaching requires so much give-and-take; never forget to learn from your students as they are learning from you.
Teaching can be the best job in the world or the worst, depending on your attitude and that of those you are around all day. Be a beacon of light and get light reflected back; diminish your light and those around you are diminished. Like it or not, no matter how tired or discouraged you are, you set the tone for the class. It can drain you to be the constant cheerleader so make sure you’ve got a solid support group that can make you laugh.
If you ever find yourself dreading the daily drive to school, because it’s getting harder and harder to let that light shine, it’s time to let that place go and find a different way to teach others. You’re not doing anyone any good by “toughing it out”, least of all yourself. That’s not to say that you should cut and run at the first sign of difficulty. But if you genuinely know that you have tried and tried again to do your best and you still don’t feel satisfaction at the end of the school day, it’s time to find a different place that will let you refresh that light and try again to rekindle the teaching fire within you. Never that that spark burn out. It’s who you are.