Better Than Winning the Lottery

September 19, 2014
After spending three years in Seoul, Korea teaching English as a Second Language, I came back to the States knowing that I wanted to go graduate school to obtain a Masters degree in Education.  I expected to go to school for two years, get my degree, and be on my merry way with a teaching job.  Looking back, I think it was a combination of bad luck and unrealistic expectations, but things didn't turn out quite as I planned.

Here's a little timeline outlining my experiences:

January 2009: Arrived back in the United States.

February 2009: Met with an advisor at Ohio State and explained that I was hoping to get into the Masters program there since it was ranked as one of the top five in the nation, there was a satellite campus close to where my parents' lived, I did my undergraduate degree at OSU, etc.  I explained to her that I had been overseas teaching in Korea and that's what led me to want to pursue an education degree.  The advisor looked at my transcripts and figured out what classes I would need to take.  She told me that I could sign up for classes in March when Spring Quarter started.  Her last question to me was, "Have you been living in Ohio for the past year?"  Um, lady...were you daydreaming when we just had an entire convo about me working in Korea for several years?  I had to say no.  She informed me that I had to call OSU's main campus to see if I would qualify as an Ohio resident.  It turns out, I did not.  I tried to fight it saying that I had to be an Ohio resident because if I wasn't an Ohio resident, then where was I a resident of?  Korea? Don't think so!  My argument didn't work and the lady I spoke with put me on hold for a long time and then came back and told me, "You are an Ohio resident, but not for tuition purposes." That meant that I either had to wait a year to establish residency in Ohio or pay the fee for out-of-state tuition.  When I looked at the out-of-state fees, they were about triple the amount of what Ohio residents had to pay per quarter.  I decided to look into going to private universities since some private colleges don't have extra fees for non-residents.  The advisor at OSU told me that I'd have to do a year of prerequisite courses and then one year and one quarter of graduate school and I'd be done.  That didn't seem too bad for someone who had never had an education class.  A reason why it was such a short time period was because, like I said already, I did my undergraduate degree at OSU, so I didn't have to worry about courses not transferring.  Unfortunately, when I did look into private colleges, a lot of my coursework didn't transfer over, so I was looking at three years to just get my teaching license and no Masters.  In the end, I just decided that I would wait it out and attend school at OSU again.

April 2009-May 2010: Started working as a toddler teacher in a daycare and waited a whole year to establish my Ohio residency.  I had to fill out tons of paperwork and provide all sorts of "proof" like the a copy of the title to my car, pay stubs, rent receipts, etc.  After a year of waiting, I was granted Ohio residency for tuition purposes and signed up to take classes for Summer Quarter.  My main beef with the whole having to wait a full year for tuition purposes was that I found out that they did away with it shortly after I qualified for in-state tuition.  That was a frustrating piece of news!  Now as long as you graduate from an Ohio high school (which I did), you are considered a "Forever Buckeye" and qualify for the in-state tuition.

June 2010-June 2011: Completed all of my prerequisite courses in a year.  I had to take 2 extra courses on top of the three that every other college senior was taking, but I did it!  Also, during this time, I had to take the GRE and apply to the M.Ed program at OSU.  I got accepted and then had a summer off to work, save some money, and enjoy being Maid of Honor in both of my younger sisters' weddings.

September 2011-June 2013: I took courses full time at OSU for my M.Ed and completed over 1,000 hours in the field.  (It was a rigorous program, but I had some good field experiences.)  Now, September 2011-June 2013 is definitely not the "one year and one quarter" I was promised, but what happened was that the state of Ohio made all universities switch over to semesters.  Because of the mandatory switch, my cohort and I ended up having to go several extra months and our graduation was pushed back til June.

June 2013: Well, even though we were told we could graduate in June, it turns out my friend Scott and I had to delay our graduation because of our study abroad trip to South Africa.  We had already put a deposit on our trip and were told that our graduation date would not be affected, but then later were informed that we could only get the credit hours for our study abroad trip at no extra cost if we postponed our graduation until August.  If we wanted to graduate in June, we would have had to pay over a thousand dollars in tuition for the credit hours for our trip.  We were both a little upset over this, but decided that getting to go to South Africa and not paying the extra money was worth delaying our graduation for just a few months.

August 2013: I went to my graduation ceremony at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus and was so happy to finally be done and walk out of there with my degree!  What I thought was going to take me two years and one quarter turned out to be a commitment that lasted over three years, but I didn't even care because I had earned my degree... Except that when I opened up my diploma case, there was no diploma at all!  Instead, there was a note saying that there was a freeze on my account because I didn't pay a fee.  I knew that I had paid everything, so I was flipping out.  It turns out that I was awarded $1,000 in grant money for my South Africa trip, but then it was taken away for some unknown reason.  Since the grant was taken back, it left me owing $1,000.  I called the financial aid office on the main campus and they just told me to pay it, but I refused...I was told I would get the grant, was awarded it...and, after all, how can you "ungrant" a grant??  I called Scott and asked him if this had happened to him since we were in the same program, took all the same classes, went on the same trip, and had the same graduation day.  He told me that he got his diploma with no problem at all and teased me saying, "Bad Luck Lisa strikes again!"  Lol, he told me he is convinced I'm jinxed, but I insist that while I do have crazy stupid bad luck, I also have amazingly good luck, too.  It never seems to just be neutral.  Anyhow, after making a zillion phone calls and e-mailing several advisors, I finally got my diploma at the very end of August.  However, since I didn't know what was going on with my degree, I had to stop applying to teaching jobs because the admin or secretaries would ask me when I would be get my degree, and I couldn't tell them an answer.  Honestly, in mid-August there really weren't that many jobs to apply to in my area, anyway.  I decided that I was okay subbing for a year to get my foot in the door, and I could also apply to any jobs that opened up in the middle of the year.  The school that I did my student teaching at was looking for subs, and I was hoping that a position would eventually open up.

August 2013-May 2014: I subbed in two districts and even subbed long-term for a teacher that was out for three weeks in May.  While I loved one of the districts and would have applied there in a heartbeat, there was only one job opening for third grade.  Instead of hiring a new teacher, they moved the kindergarten teacher to 3rd grade.  I get that.  It makes total sense, but I knew I was unwilling to wait years for a job to open up.  In Ohio, there is a surplus of teachers and it's hard to find a job especially in the area that I lived in.  Some of the teachers at the school I subbed at told me that they subbed for eight years before getting their job!  Also, as I mentioned on here last spring, a local district mismanaged their funds and ended up having to lay off over a hundred staff members and closed a couple of their schools.  That resulted in even more teachers looking for work in a pool that was already too large for my liking!  A nearby school held interviews for one job and over 200 teachers applied.  Two hundred!  Most of my friends did get teaching jobs in Ohio work for private schools, but I want to work in public education.  At that point, I knew I had move to where there were a decent amount of openings.  Plus, I had been wanting to relocate down South for awhile.  Those numbers gave me the push I needed to take a chance.

June 2014: I moved to a small city near Savannah and applied to almost twenty teaching jobs in South Carolina and waited.  Much to my dismay, I learned that I could not apply to teach in the Georgia school district closest to me because I do not have my reading endorsement.  That is a whole other can of worms I don't really feel like getting into that much, but basically, some states passed laws that all teachers (current and future) must hold a reading endorsement in order to teach in early childhood.  I heard nothing about this endorsement being a requirement for teachers in certain states until my last semester of college.  To get the endorsement at OSU, the cost is about $10,000 and anyone not enrolled in a degree program (which I wouldn't be since I already graduated) would not be eligible for student loans to help pay for the endorsement.  As a semi-recent graduate, I don't have $10,000 to just throw at a reading endorsement, so I am ineligible to teach in the Georgia school near me.  That's why I applied to be a substitute teacher and not a regular classroom teacher here in Georgia. 
   
July and August 2014: I kept calling to check on my application for subbing.  I was informed that I could sub every single day if I wanted to and was led to believe that there would always be jobs available.  Unfortunately, I wasn't hearing back from the subbing place as fast as I would have liked to/wasn't even sure what was going on, as I wrote about in a past post.

September 2014: After an interview, two training sessions, a background check, a drug test, and another visit to fill out paperwork, I was finally hired as a sub!  The only problem was that when I logged on the site to book jobs, there was nothing available.  I saw a single job posting and it was for a half-day in a special education room.  I went to Google the school to see if it was close to me, and by the time I finished my Google search, someone else had already taken the job!  When I subbed last year, I did take some same-day jobs, but most of the time I was able to book them way in advance.  I started freaking out thinking that maybe I would have to move back to Ohio where I knew I could sub practically every day of the week, if not every single one.  And...That's when I got the call...for...a pre-screening interview at a South Carolina school district!  That led to me getting a phone call for an interview directly with the school principal!   And NOT just for subbing--for an actual teaching job!! I was beginning to think open teaching positions were just myths, lol.  As soon as I walked into the school yesterday, I just got a good vibe.  The secretary was friendly, smiled at me, told me it was nice to meet me and asked if I found the place okay.  The lobby of the school was inviting and clean.  There were rocking chairs, pamphlets for parents, a little table with paper and crayons for kids.  The room was nice and bright, there was mosaic artwork hanging on the walls, and there were even plants.  You can tell a lot about a school from the atmosphere, as soon as I walked in, I got the sense that this was a school run by people who cared.  I don't typically like interviews because I got unbelievably nervous, but the principal and assistant principal just had a calm demeanor about them.  About halfway through the interview I realized that I was actually ENJOYING myself answering those questions.  I had a chance to ask questions to the principal and assistant principal I agreed with their philosophies.  I could tell that they were hands-on and made their presence known throughout the school, but felt like they were there to actually help and support the teachers.
Once I heard more about the job itself, I was even more convinced that it was the one for me.  The opening was for a first grade position.  First/K are my desired grade levels, so that was already a plus.  Then I found out that the room is a Mandarin immersion room and I would be co-teaching with a Chinese teacher because the students in the class are in a language immersion program.  Although I won't be the one instructing students in another language, I believe in immersion programs and in the importance of learning a second language early on.  I studied French at a French immersion school,  and I when I taught in Korea, it was English immersion.  I have worked with foreign teachers in the past and even team-taught with some Korean teachers, so I'm really looking forward to working with the Chinese teacher.  I couldn't have imagined a better fit for myself if I tried.  After the official interview, I was given a tour of the school and was allowed to step into the classroom for a bit.  I drove home thinking, "I really hope that I got this..."  I finished my drive home and noticed that I had a voice mail.  I thought it was my sister calling to see how my interview had gone, but I saw that it was from the school!!  I played the message and on it was the most glorious thing I've ever heard in life which was the sound of the principal offering me the job!!!  I played that message to myself over and over because I FINALLY got what I wanted.  To say I am excited would be underestimating things.  I am beyond ecstatic!  When the assistant principal and I got to talk, she told me, "We both felt that you would be an excellent fit for our school.  We should have just hired you on the spot."  I told her that I felt like the school was a good fit for me as well, especially that position because it combines my love for international studies (my first degree) and teaching!  I hope to create themed units on China so that students can learn more about the country.  I have been walking around with a huge grin on my face and feel that a huge burden has been lifted.

I told you my back-story, so you can see that finally securing a teaching job isn't something I take lightly.  I realize now that I was spoiled rotten to get a good teaching job in Korea with just an undergraduate degree not even in the field of education.  The journey to getting my own classroom the the States took longer than I would have liked, but now that I have my very own students, I'm going to be working my tail off trying to make sure my students receive a high-quality education!  I just feel like I need to pinch myself because I have been wanting to get my own classroom for more than five years, and even though there have been obstacles, I couldn't imagine a better ending to my story.  I'm happier now than I think I would be if I won the lottery.
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Jennifer Flaa said...

What a journey and hoops to jump through! Excited for you to start your new job.

Lisa K said...

Yes!! I'm just so happy to finally be working! I'm going in this afternoon to meet my students. :)

Lora said...

AHHHH! Congratulations!!! I am so excited for you! When do you start? Did I miss that somewhere?

Lisa K said...

Thanks so much!!! I start on Monday, but I go in & meet the kids this afternoon. :)

Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki said...

Congratulations! What a journey you have been on, you more than deserve this! And I love this post break down of your back story, I may need to borrow it for my story that led me to Iceland.

Kristen Warren said...

congratulations gorgeous! you have definitely earned it, what a crazy journey!

alyssa nicole said...

Congratulations!!! This is so exciting. Oh my goodness! Best of luck at the new job! <3

Donna M said...

Congratulations! So exciting, my best friend is a teacher and the struggle is so real to find a full time position! I didn't know Mandarin immersion programs existed, I can't wait to keep up with your blog and learn more about it!

Zoe Diaz-McLeese said...

Oh my gosh, what an ordeal! I'm so glad it all worked out in the end though, and congratulations on your new job, and finally getting your classroom. :)

Paulina Dombrowski said...

That is awesome you got a job! Here in Jersey there are zero teaching jobs and that is why I changed my major because I didn't want to go through the struggle of trying to find a job.

Kristie's Blue Jeans said...

You have been through so much. Good things come to those who wait and put in hard, hard work! Congratulations!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yvonne Marcus said...

I'm so glad that you got the job! You'll love it!

Jenn @ Business, Life & Design said...

Congratulations! That's quite an Odyssey, but I'm so glad it had a happy ending. Out of state tuition is ridiculous! And that thing with the diploma - I would have been livid. I've never heard of immersion schools before, but the whole concept is really interesting, and I'm glad you get to work in that environment.

Natalie Patalie said...

Congratulations! I'm glad everything worked out :)

Lisa K said...

Thanks, me too! I'm so glad that some states don't require the reading endorsement or I don't know what I would have done!

Lisa K said...

The thing that upset me the most is that I was just trying to go to school in my own state, but they were trying to charge me out of state tuition!! My co-teacher from China seems really sweet--I met her yesterday!

Lisa K said...

It's going to be a lot of work at first, but I can't wait to get into the swing of things.

Lisa K said...

Yes! I'm so glad that I didn't give up...I was almost about to!

Lisa K said...

Oh yeah, it is tough to find good teaching jobs in public schools in certain states! Your new major (isn't it in social media??) seems to fit you, though!

Lisa K said...

It truly was an ordeal. I'm so relieved it all worked out in the end, though.

Lisa K said...

Yeah, the Mandarin immersion program is fairly new. She will teach science, Mandarin, and math all in Mandarin! I'll teach reading/writing/l.a. and social studies in English.

Lisa K said...

Thanks so much! I have a lot of students and there is plenty of work to be done already!

Lisa K said...

It was a crazy journey! At least I got exactly what I wanted in the end, though...1st grade, a job in a public school, etc

Lisa K said...

Oh for sure! I'd love to read each step of how you decided to move to Iceland!

Megan Claborn said...

Yay! I'm so excited for you and am glad I got to learn a little more about the background story.

Kali Schroeder said...

I live in Canada, and in the province that I'm in there are not many teaching jobs either. In my city alone, there are 1000+ subs. I'm planning on teaching English in Korea in about three years and was just wondering what you thought about it!

Kathy@Vodka and Soda said...

where i am (toronto), the teaching industry is saturated. i know so many teachers who are working in other industries as they wait to be called for an interview. males have it a bit easier as there's a shortage of elementary grade male teachers but for the most part, very little teaching jobs out there!

Rebecca B. Bird said...

Congratulations, how very exciting! I didn't realize the process had taken you so long. I had to deal with similar residency/tuition issues when I came back from living in the UK and wanted to take some courses at a local college. I was never a permanent resident of the UK, and my legal permanent address was in IL, but they were like "You haven't lived here for the past couple of years, not a resident!" Arrrgh, so frustrating.

Lisa K said...

YES!! It sounds like we went through exactly the same thing! It's seriously the dumbest thing I ever heard of, especially if you graduated (high school and college) in that state. Did you end up paying the extra $$ or did you wait a year?

Lisa K said...

Oh where I lived before it was just like that..When I found out that over 200 people applied for ONE job, I knew I had to move if I was ever going to stand a chance of getting hired!

Rebecca B. Bird said...

I ended up getting frustrated and taking off and doing a working holiday in New Zealand instead, haha. I already had a master's degree at that point and was going to take more courses as a prerequisite to another graduate program, but I decided while I was abroad (again) that I didn't want to do it after all. Not sure if I'm better or worse off for it, but that's what happened!

Lisa K said...

I loved it over there! As a teacher now, I realized that I was so lucky back then because I had very small classes and parents who cared about their kids/worked with them at home if they knew English.

SMD @ lifeaccordingtosteph said...

I'm so happy for you! How wonderful to get something you've worked and waited for, and for it to be such a great fit. Congratulations and best of luck!

Nina W said...

yayayayayayay! Congratulations! This seems like the perfect job for you! I bet the loved that you taught in Korea, and that is why they put you in an immersion class!!

Vivacious Chica -Blog said...

Oh my gosh, it sounds like me int he social service field. It took me 4 years to finally get my "dream" job. So glad you shared your story with your readers. Congrats. You were persistent and did not give up even when everything seemed to be going wrong. I'm glad you get to have your own classroom. May you inspire your students and instill a love of learning the way so many teachers did with me. Good luck!!!

Lisa K said...

Thanks so much! I'm almost done with my first week--there are many challenges, but I hope to have a great year with the kids.

Lisa K said...

For sure...especially in a state that has too many qualified teachers!!

Lisa K said...

I don't think that experience hurt!! Thanks for the congrats! :)

Lisa K said...

One of my friends is in that field and she struggled for awhile with finding a good job. I don't think she has her "dream" job, but she is just happy to have one. Thanks so much for the well wishes!

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