I am from the great, first state of Delaware. Commonly referred to by the many whom aren’t familiar with it as “Delawhere?” When people learn I am not from Louisville, this conversation usually ensues:
Person: How do you like living in Louisville?
Me: I like it. I miss my family and the beach.
Person: The beach?
Me: Yes, as a child, my family would make regular trips to the beach. I miss the smell of salt water. I miss the boardwalk. I miss Grotto’s pizza, Dolle’s salt water taffy, and Fisher’s caramel popcorn.
Person [confused]: What water is near DE?
Me: Oh, just this small body of water called the Atlantic Ocean.
Beach and family aside, DE is a strange place to grow up. It is a very small state – the second smallest by geographical area— with only three counties and an equally small population (still under one million as of 2015). So, the six degrees of separation that exists for the rest of the free world, is more like three degrees in Delaware. Everyone you know is either related to you, works at DuPont, or both. Sometimes, it’s a little exhausting, but without a doubt the best part of DE is its close proximity to other great places. New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and D.C are all within 100 miles.
After 18 years of DE, I knew I had to go out of state for college, so I found myself pursuing Forensic Science degree at Eastern Kentucky University. After my sophomore year, logging many hours in the chemistry lab, I realized the looking down a microscope in the relative isolation of a lab was not for me. I had taken a course in Economics (see future blog post on the magic of a talented professor) and was intrigued by the subject. I wanted to take more classes to see what this fascinating subject was all about. The more classes I took, the more I was intrigued. I eventually switched my major and graduate magna cum laude with a degree in Economics and Political Science.
Upon graduation, I moved to Tampa, FL and took a year off to work in the financial services industry. I used that time to establish residency and beef up on my math skills with the intention of pursuing a graduate degree in Economics. I entered graduate school in the Spring of 2006 at the University South Florida. After my first class in Mathematical Economics, I seriously questioned my decision to attend graduate school. I almost quit then and there, but nevertheless persisted. In fact, I graduated in only a year in the Spring of 2007. Arguably the single best thing about my graduate program was that fortunate enough to be funded. In exchange for tuition, I was a graduate assistant for a large-online principles of macroeconomics class. I led the weekly recitation classes and it was here I first fell in love with teaching.
Master’s degree in hand, I changed career paths and went into the insurance consulting industry, but continued to pursue teaching. I worked as an adjunct at the local community college teaching one class per semester at night. When I started running my own classes, I found out rather quickly that I had no idea what I was doing. Sure, I had the content knowledge. I knew economics. I loved economics. But I had no idea how to make that knowledge and passion transcend in the classroom. I started doing research on my own on how to improve my pedagogical techniques and stumbled upon the field of Economic Education. I integrated techniques I found from reliable sources (see Teaching Resources tab) and immediately saw an improvement in student engagement and learning. That was the moment I was hooked. I knew I had found my calling. Now I had to find a way to do it full-time, but there was a small catch. I knew I couldn’t teach children. God bless the hard working men and women who teach in the PK-12 system, but I knew it wasn’t for me*.
What I quickly found out was that to teach adults, full-time, pretty much meant pursuing a Ph.D. This led me to the University of Delaware – back to my home state – to pursue my Ph.D. in Economic Education. I was the first to go through the program. I had my share of ups and downs – many stemming from the fact that I was a single mother and it was a brand new program (see future blog post about my experience there)—but I managed to successfully navigate the program. When I was ABD, I started at the Louisville Branch of Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis where I conduct research, write curriculum materials and articles, and design and implement professional development opportunities for teachers. I wrote my dissertation while working full-time, being a single mother, and having no family or friends in the state of Kentucky to help**. I defended my dissertation in September of 2013 and submitted small revisions in order to graduate in the Spring of 2014. I was the first ever graduate of the program.
*Nothing against children. I love them. I have two of my own. Here they are on a recent trip to Disney World:
** I share that to make this point, which is a favorite quote of mine: