BY LAUREN RAMIREZ, 6th/7th Grade Language Arts & History Teacher
Leaving something behind in favor of a new venture is, I believe, why the term “bittersweet” was initially coined. You find yourself knee-deep in gratitude for what was, drenched in angst for the friends and faces you’ll miss, and a heart bursting with optimism for what comes next. These feelings were familiar ones for me, as a young woman who had long ago grown accustomed to saying her farewells—to jobs, cities, and friends in faraway places. My husband was in the Army and we lived in Alaska, a place that we loved deeply, but knew would never be home like the Triad is. Being transient for the first years of my professional life had its ups and downs, but it did encourage me never to find myself in a stagnant or complacent state of mind.
Cue coming back to North Carolina and working in a place that was enjoyable, but not fulfilling. It was busy, but not meaningful. I interacted with college students for blips in time and yearned for ways to connect on a deeper level, and to feel as though I was making a difference. When this feeling became too great to ignore, I decided I’d give teaching another go (I’d taught one year prior to the college job) and sought a school where, simply put, I’d be proud to send my daughter. That place, praise God, is Redeemer School in Ardmore.
From the moment I signed my contract, it started to feel like home: something which I was not used to, being what my family affectionately called a “serial job-hopper.” Six months in, my ever-transient mind in a rooted body has already begun to feel comfortable. The genuine love expressed at Redeemer for every student, every parent, and every faculty member shows me that these people were walking the walk, not just talking the talk of Christianity, and caring for children throughout their education. They ask questions like, “The question is not, ‘How much does the youth know?’ when he has finished his education, but how much does he care?” (Charlotte Mason) I was startled to find the maturity and thirst for knowledge present with even 6th-graders when I began as a new teacher at Redeemer School. These qualities seem to be largely due to the combination of stellar teachers in a covenant partnership with equally stellar parents and students—athough I often joke with my middle schoolers, they truly are some of the best people I have ever known.
Redeemer’s implementation of Charlotte Mason pedagogy has fascinated me since being introduced to this during the interview process, and though I’m still learning more each day about Ms. Mason’s approach, I believe their usage of this well-developed curriculum has me feeling more at home in nature, more at home as a teacher, and more at home within myself. It’s forced me to step out of the way of students’ natural ability to learn and grow as independent, whole people, and to see them as such: no longer am I the sole person responsible for their love of books and history and learning, but a mere mentor and guide along their journey to finding what is home for them as well.
My fervent hope is that having the springboard of faith and family at Redeemer School reminds each student that no matter how far they wander, they’ve never departed from Him, from us, or from this place that we all love deeply and forever. My hope is that I, too, have finally found a place to be still for a while—and I do believe that I have.