I never wanted to start a school.
Maybe I should rephrase that. Before I got hit with the dream of Envision Academy, I never wanted to start a school. Seriously, it never even crossed my mind.
I am a teacher at heart. I love teaching. That moment when a child grasps a new concept is amazing. But I also love the conversations with 6-year-olds, the recess duty, the giggles you get with other teachers on work days, the planning of a good lesson and then pulling it off. It’s the best job ever.
Don’t get me wrong, there are things I always wished I could change. Like how traditional education takes a one-size-fits-all approach or how focused we, as a nation, are on testing.
I figured I could work to change those things from inside the system, like so many committed and hard-working teachers do every single day. But God had other plans.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _
At the end of spring 2011, I was feeling comfortable. I loved my job and was really getting into the groove of teaching first grade. I also was a middle school youth group leader, having so much fun with the girls I was mentoring. I had finished up my Masters program. Life was good.
The thing is, every time in my life when I get so comfortable, I soon feel the need for change, for challenge, for learning new things. I could feel it coming, like a storm in the distance. It was a little unsettling.
So, when I got a letter inviting me to be a part of a year-long leadership class at my church, I thought, “This is it! This is what is going to challenge me!” I was pretty excited. Not only about the class, but about how easy it would be to participate, do homework, and talk with classmates. I love learning; it is one of my favorite things about being a human. I couldn’t believe how comfortable it was going to be to challenge myself.
Fall came. School started. Leadership class started. Bible study started. When you are in education, everything starts in the fall.
Little did I know, a perfect storm was brewing.
The Wind: In Bible study, we were reading Radical by David Platt. The book argues how we in America have become too comfortable in our faith and how we need to live more radically like Jesus did. Fitting for my circumstances, right?
The Rain: In class, we were reading Exponential by Jon Ferguson, about multiplying your ministry so that it can impact more people. We were given an assignment to come up with a God-sized Dream.
The Thunder: On September 12, one of my students woke to find his mom dead. She and her boyfriend had been killed while her two boys slept. The boys were the ones who found her. This broke me. I didn’t know the best way to help this little guy. I didn’t know how to let him process while protecting the rest of my kids from the fear of having a “bad guy” come into the house and shoot their parents. I did my best and prayed A LOT.
On September 28, I went to Scooters to meet with my friend Elizabeth. I shared with her how helpless I had been feeling. I felt like I wasn’t truly making a difference as a teacher. Yes, I was impacting kids’ lives and showing them love. But did that matter really? I wanted to make a difference for eternity.
In this conversation, Elizabeth asked the question that changed my life: What if you started a school?
At that moment in 2011, the Dream of Envision Academy came to be. It felt like one of those moments in a movie where the camera zooms in on a character and everything else fades away. I can’t describe the flurry of emotions that went through me. Excitement. Purpose. Terror. Determination. I knew right then that starting a school was my future. It was overwhelming, this God-sized Dream. There was no way for me to start this on my own, it would require faith and trust and hope in Him.
In those first few weeks, the excitement was real. Then reality hit and anxiety began to creep in. I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t know what to do. Who was I, to think I could start a school? Did I need to quit my job, sell my house, and use the money to get everything going? Where would I find kids to come to the school? How do you even start a school?
You see, every big decision in my life up to this point had been fast. I chose the college I went to because I got a scholarship there, after waiting only a month. I was hired the day after my first interview to be a teacher. On the first day I looked at houses, I bought the third house I toured (and that was 16 years ago). See what I mean?
Luckily, I had some calm friends and family who helped me through this small crisis. They were supportive and realistic. Through their wise counsel and some time with God, I realized that this Dream would be a slow-growing dream. Like a tree. It would take a lot of time and effort to get going. It would be hard work. It would take persistence and determination.
And so, here I am today, working to start Envision Academy.
I have to be honest with you. It’s not glamorous. It’s hard and achingly slow and sometimes very frustrating. In spite of that, I take the next step. And the next. And the next. Because it will be worth it.
No, I never wanted to start a school. But I can’t imagine my life on any other path.