Eunbee Kim, a 2015 graduate from Sewanee, in in her second year teaching science at Olmsted South Middle School. She writes here about Teach Kentucky’s Retired Teacher Advocate support program, one of the supports unique to our program, and an invaluable resource for first year teachers. Below is her reflection about the experience she had with this mentor.

My thumbs fiddled for the right words on the open text message.  I could make up any excuse.  I could say I had too much work to do.  I could even ignore the invitation and tell them later I forgot.  No… Something was keeping me from sending a message.  I placed the phone back into my pocket and reached for my keys instead. Before I knew it, I was parked in front of a beautifully decorated house.  There was no turning back now.  Taking a deep breath, I got out of my car and walked into the open front door.  I followed the voices coming from the kitchen.  Then, with a plastered smile, I engaged with the strangely familiar faces.

Taking a break from this new environment, I quickly went to the beverage table and took a glass of Pepsi.  I thought perhaps this would be a safe place to observe my surroundings.  As I rested in the corner, I looked up to see another person walk into the room.  Her stance was similar to mine, defeated and wary. The same people that greeted me rushed to her with smiles and hugs.

 Something inside me began to stir.  I began to notice when the next person came into the room and the same scenario happened again.  It was like a replay over and over.  Someone with a sad face would walk into the room and everyone would greet them.  Then, I began to smile.  These people in this home were here to help us, not to become another burden.  Slowly but surely, each of the sad faces in the room began to lighten up with real smiles.  

Overwhelmed by our new lives in Louisville, where we taught in schools throughout the district, we found every day a struggle to move forward.  Early in our journey, Teach Kentucky provided us with Retired Teacher Advocates (RTAs).  Though we didn’t understand their significance in the beginning, we have found so much support and care from them.  

One of the fellow Science RTA’s, Cindy opened up her home for us brokenhearted teachers to gather and heal.  In her home, our RTAs comforted us with their humorous stories.  They fed us with more home-cooked food than we could ever imagine.  They even paused to let our croaking voices be heard. Through this invitation, we had returned to our happy selves.

Our RTAs became our friends and our grandmothers.  When it was time to leave, they filled our hands with gifts and implored us to take more food.  If we tried to leave empty-handed, they’d stop us at the door and point to the kitchen.  So with our hands, hearts, and bellies full, we took one last look back at the house and went back to our homes, waiting by our phones for that next invitation.      

Author: Rebecca Barnwell

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