The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Caroline

“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

This series highlights young professionals and their stories, because no matter our path we all have a little to share and a lot to learn. Read and learn from past feature posts HERE.

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 I have so been looking forward to sharing this feature with you ever since I heard back from the guest! Caroline is shaking the series up a bit by sharing her story via YouTube! I always tell my guests that I want this feature to reflect their story in the best way possible, so I was excited when she suggested a video. Personally for me, video is something I have yet to venture into on my blog, but I am definitely curious!

I met Caroline early on in college through our participation in Agriculture Future of America (AFA) Leaders Conference, and then got to know her a bit better overtime as we both eventually served on the organization’s national student advisory team (not the same year). Caroline’s journey is inspiring. A few months after I moved to DC in 2015, Caroline called me up because she was a crossroads with what the next step was in her life and career. I was honored that she reached out to me for that kind of advice. I vividly remember her sharing so passionately about these ideas and goals she had, about her values and faith and the challenges she was facing. Fast forward to 2017, and I am so excited to see her living out (and crushing) those ideas and goals, and more importantly, so happy and positive about the road she’s on. It’s contagious.

What has always stood out to me since I first met Caroline, was how friendly she is and how gracefully she wears her confidence, and I think you’ll see that in her video. Caroline is also a regular blogger, so if you read or hear something in her story that interests you, I would encourage you to check out her blog at https://strongsweetcaroline.com/. 

-Amanda 

Basics

Name: Caroline Weihl
Age: 25 YEARS YOUNG!
Hometown: Perrysburg, Ohio
College: The Ohio State University
Degree(s): May 2014 Agricultural Communication, minor Agribusiness
Current Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Current Job: Entrepreneur – starting a meal prep company

College

How did you choose your college and your major?
I grew up on a row crop and beef cattle farm and always enjoyed sharing an agriculture story. I was a good writer so it made sense to study agricultural communication. I was fortune to receive a scholarship from The Ohio State University and made the decision simple. I wanted to make the most of the opportunity in front of me.

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
AFA, Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow, Alpha Xi Delta Fraternity and many other student orgs through college. I interned with Trupointe Cooperative (now Sunrise Cooperative), Ohio State Livestock Judging Team, Bader Rutter, and freelanced for the Ohio FFA Association.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college?
Anything you would change? Learning to say “no” to the unimportant and make time for priorities.

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
Make the most to explore new things you want to learn, people you want to build relationships and network with and discover as much about yourself as possible.

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?
I worked three years with Syngenta in corporate seed sales. I left in August 2017 to start a meal prep company in Atlanta, Georgia. Watch video for more details.

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
Helped me identify my deeper purpose and talents.

On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for?
Focusing on small steps, one day at a time.

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
Evernote and podcasts!

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
Strengths: confidence, vision, drive, compassion. Weaknesses: impatience and multi-tasking.

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
YouTube, gratitude, self reflection, vision board.

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
It’s not work-life balance. It’s lifestyle.

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?
Having the courage to do something most won’t: stepping out of a “comfort zone” to pursue new challenges.

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
Very busy but towards things I want!

What path are you looking to take next? Any long-term goals?
Start my company and continue to build it from there.

Just for Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
Meditation and 16oz of water right when waking up.

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
Music.

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
This one, but with other businesses started and going in the travel and clothing industries.

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
Close friends and networks.

*****

Caroline, I know you are hustling at life right now, so I want you to know how much I appreciate you taking the time to share your story on my blog! 

Want to follow Caroline more? You can find her on Instagram: @strongsweetcaroline and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/strongsweetcaroline/

Cheers!

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Megan

“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

This series highlights young professionals and their stories, because no matter our path we all have a little to share and a lot to learn. Read and learn from past feature posts HERE.

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If you read this blog even occasionally, then you probably already know who today’s guest is. But in case you don’t… I met my best friend Megan at the beginning of my freshman year at K-State when we both lived in Smurthwaite Scholarship House. We quickly became inseparable and the world hasn’t been quite the same since (dramatic I know, but we are the first to admit that we can be pretty obnoxious together).  We lived together for 4.5 years,  and even as we’ve “grown up” and I moved across the country again, we’ve been really fortunate that our friendship has only grown and evolved to best fit where each of us are at in life. Most of my best memories since 2009 involve this gal.

But this post is really about Megan and her story. First and foremost, what you need to know about Megan is that she has such a kind, thoughtful heart and she REALLY loves food. She has a loud, but warm and contagious personality that makes people feel welcome and like an old friend. She is naturally curious, fiercely committed to what is important to her and isn’t afraid to own who she is, mistakes and all. Because we are so close, I have had a backstage pass to every part of Megan’s life, and I am honestly so proud of who she is and what she has accomplished so far in life. I know I am a better person because of her.

-Amanda 

Name: Megan Torline
Age: 27
Hometown: Derby, KS
College: Kansas State University
Degree(s): BS in Food Science
Current Location: Wichita, KS
Current Job: Research and Development Food Scientist at BlendTech, Inc.

College

How did you choose your college and your major?
For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a vet. I was always the animal lover of my family and asked for a dog for every birthday and Christmas. In high school, I worked at a vet clinic my junior and senior year. This gave me a bit of experience in the environment and as my mom put it, “made sure I could handle blood.”

When choosing a college, K-State appealed to me because it had a vet school. There were a lot of perks of doing my undergrad there, plus in-state tuition made a lot more sense to me. My first semester really dove into animal science courses that exposed me to the agriculture industry that I really knew nothing about. Growing up in a more urban area, a lot of the concepts that were part of growing up for most people in my animal science classes were brand new for me. (Amanda here… pretty sure it was studying for ASI 102 our first semester that really solidified our friendship!)

I took a food science course as an elective thinking, “I like food,” and it really opened my eyes to new career options that I didn’t even know existed. I swapped my major to Food Science/Pre-Vet and continued to take more food science classes. Eventually, I dropped the Pre-Vet all together and stuck with Food Science.

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
I had various jobs all through college, so I feel like my involvement in college groups was significantly less than it would have been otherwise. I lived in Smurthwaite Scholarship Leadership house with Amanda for my freshman and sophomore year of college. Smurthwaite had a lot of house activities that kept us busy and we also had various events with the men’s scholarship house, Smith House. I met some of my closest college friends through time spent in the scholarship houses.

Right before my last semester of college, I interned at BlendTech Inc., a spice and seasoning blend company, in Wichita, KS. As a research and development intern, I helped develop seasoning blends for various companies within the meat industry. This internship was a great fit for me and at the end of the summer, I was offered a full time position after I graduated that next December. I was extremely lucky in that I went into my last semester of college with a job already lined up.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
I think one of the biggest struggles for me in college was saying no to the fun activities like spending time out with friends, tailgates or hanging out in Aggieville. I think there are definitely times I would have been significantly less stressed, if I had just stayed home and worked on homework or caught up on sleep. I was also (and still am) a fairly good procrastinator. When I wasn’t feeling like doing homework or studying, I was very good at finding any sort of distraction to do instead (which let’s be real, what college student isn’t?). Again, I know that if I had just buckled down and done the work, I probably could have saved myself from a few more late nights and stressful weeks.

I don’t think I would have it any other way though. I know that a large part of all that is just my personality and isn’t really something I could change anyway. But I also think that by choosing to spend an afternoon at a tailgate or staying up a little too late on a weeknight chatting and hanging out with friends, I really cemented in some of the friendships I still value today. And in the grand scheme of things, what’s a few stressful semesters compared to some lifelong friendships?

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?

Hang in there!! It’s so easy to get caught up in the “almost done” mindset and focus so much on being done that you don’t even enjoy parts of your senior year. My last semester of college was definitely stressful, but it was also included some really fun classes. I wish I had spent a little less time focusing on how stressed I was and more time focusing on the enjoyable classes I got to end my college career with and the great people I got to live and hang out with.

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?
I have been at the same job since I graduated college almost 4 years ago. I work as a Research and Development Food Scientist at BlendTech. BlendTech is a spice and seasoning blend supplier. We work primarily within the meat industry and supply dry rubs, marinades and injects food companies across the country. We also work some within the snack food industry, supplying seasonings to sunflower seed, chip and other snack food companies. My average week consists of a couple of meetings with current or new ingredient suppliers to stay up to date on ingredients that are currently on the market, developing and testing new seasoning blends based on customer request, current market trends or my own creativity, and creating and updating technical documentation for each of our blends for our customers. I have been extremely lucky to have a job that is always challenging me and every day is different than the one before it.

On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for?
In college, I was convinced that once I didn’t have classes, homework or studying to do, my life would be so much easier! I’d have plenty of time to do all the things and my stress levels would be practically non-existent. Adulting is hard. And I know people (jokingly or not) say this all the time, but I never really understood it until I graduated college. I also believe this is something that no matter how prepared or experienced you think you are, it will always throw you for a loop, because you just don’t know until you experience it. There have been many other challenges along the way, but the biggest challenge that I wasn’t ready for has been learning how to deal with new stresses and to sort of figure it out as I go.

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
I actually don’t use a ton of new and exciting technology at work besides my email. Outside of work, the calendar on my phone is the only way I can keep track of anything. Player FM podcast app gets me through my commute. I also use a meditation app daily. My current favorite is Stop, Breath, Think.

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
I am a rock star at forming habits. Whether it’s remembering to take my vitamins, sticking with my bedtime or maintaining a workout schedule, I know how my brain works and what steps to take to cement them in for good. However, I’ve always struggled with managing my time. The main cause of this is a combination of thinking things will take much less time than they actually do and trying to switch from project to project, which makes everything take longer.

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
I’m a pretty big fan of to-do lists. When things get crazy or stressful, the first thing I like to do is get organized. I prioritize my things to get done, I try to minimize potential distractions (lately that means putting my phone in airplane mode so notifications don’t even show up), I pour myself a cup of coffee and pick out some jammy music. I’ve learned that a positive work environment is crucial to getting me in the zone to get stuff done.

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
One of the main things I have really stuck to my guns on since graduating college is leaving work at work. I don’t bring my work home with me in the evenings and I don’t check my work email at home. Of course there are always the exceptions (waiting for an important email to come through, or on a work trip and work carries into the evening), and sometimes when there is a ton to get done or I’m behind, I’ll stay late or go into work early, I don’t mind that, sometimes it has to be done. But my line is drawn at working on work projects in my home. For me, that gives me permission to shut my work-brain off and enjoy my evenings. This gives me the space I need to do things that I love like yoga, hanging out with my friends or having dinner with my family. As long as I’m making time for these things, I feel like I’m much less likely to get burnt out at work.

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?
Earlier this year, I started a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training to become a certified yoga teacher. I started doing yoga more seriously in college, not necessarily because I loved yoga, but mostly because I knew I needed to be doing some form of physical activity and the thought of cardio and weightlifting sounded terrible. After college, I joined a gym and kept up with the yoga practice and eventually grew to love it for more than just the physical benefit. Starting the training at the beginning of this year has proved to be a huge, unexpected learning experience. Yoga helps me to clear my head and get grounded. It challenges me to focus on myself and my practice and not compare myself to others. The training has been a huge time commitment and a lot of hard work, but so worth it! I’ll finish my teacher training in October. The plan is to find someplace that I can teach others a couple pf evenings a week. I love the idea of introducing people to yoga and sharing the benefits and the joy that I get out of it. It also feels like a great way for me to give back and help me spend a little more time doing something I love.

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
Life consists of a LOT of yoga (see above question – 200 hours is a lot). Other than yoga, I spend a lot of time with my boyfriend and his 4-year-old daughter. Hanging with a 4-year-old means I get to release my inner child and do things like play on a playground and build blanket forts to watch Disney movies in. My two dogs, Luna, a 3-year-old Corgi, and Ned, a 9-month-old German Shepherd, also do a pretty good job of adding to the chaos (and fun) of life.

I also just started my own blog as well, called Her Inspired Adventure!” My 27th birthday this month marked the start of My Year of Mindfulness. I am using this year to approach all aspects of my life in a mindful and curious way. My goal is to dig deep and really figure out what it means to live an authentic life and speak my truth. As a way to document my year, I started my blog. I’m really excited to dive into this new adventure and see what this next year has in store.

Just for Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
During the summer months, I start my mornings by walking a couple miles with the dogs. This does all of us some good by getting us out of the house and getting our blood pumping to start the day. In the winter, that’s a little harder, because it’s so much darker in the morning and I’m not about to willingly spend time outside in single digits. Winter mornings usually include dog cuddles on the couch under a big warm blanket instead. Coffee is also involved somewhere in the morning process too. But starting the day with two happy pups has become an essential start to my morning.

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
Coffee is always a must. I get THE WORST caffeine headaches without it. Yes, I do realize that means I have a problem.

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
All limitations aside, I would be a Pinterest tester. Which technically I think is a thing. I think people are probably out there making a living off of testing ideas and things on Pinterest. I feel like that gives me the option to do so many different things. I could test recipes, do craft projects, clean my house, workout, DIY all the things, travel, pick up new hobbies…the possibilities are endless!

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?

  • Aggieville, the food, the people, the hilarious stories…
  • The fact that everyone around you REALLY FREAKING LOVES K-State.
  • Living with my best friends and having late night life chats that cause sleep deprivation.

*****

Thank you Megan for sharing your story! I am so thankful for our friendship and excited to follow along on your own blog (Because obviously I don’t get enough of you out of our bi-weekly 4 hour long phone calls. 

Cheers!

Life at Random

2015 Christmas in the Country Gift Reveal

Friends, I know I am not the only one who struggled a bit with the first full week back to work after the holidays.
I knew that the Christmas in the Country Gift Reveal blog posts were going live this week but everyday after work I just couldn’t bring myself to look at a computer screen again.

So my slacker plan was to write the post on the plane this morning on my trip to the West coast and post it during my layover.

And then I missed my flight this morning.
So now I’m back in my living room, with a re-booked flight for this evening.
Such is life.

CITC

Anyhow, I excited to finally share  about my first Christmas in the Country exchange!
I particularly love that this exchange brings together bloggers in agriculture.

I had SO MUCH fun “getting to know” Myla at “The Purple Front Door” and going shopping for her.
Read her post on my gift HERE.

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I received my fun box from Chelsea at BoilermakerAg, and she did a fabulous job! Everything was so personalized and well-thought out. Chelsea is a newlywed from Indiana, a proud Purdue Boilermaker and like me, an agriculture communications grad! I have read Chelsea’s blog before and I’m guessing that we have a lot in common. I am looking forward staying in touch.

First I want to share about that little lump of coal you see above on the red bag. This lump of coal (which is really a colored and scented piece of soap), has been passed along through the exchange since 2013 as a little reminder of the true reason for the season. The white tag says” A lighthearted reminder coal deserving sins places us on Santa’s naughty list. Thankfully naughty boy and girls are offered the gift of Jesus.” On the back of the tag it has the history of where this coal has traveled each year so my job now is to keep it and pass it on to someone next year!

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If you know me or have read my blog before you know that I love to be creative and tap into my artistic side, and paints are probably my favorite to use. Chelsea sent me a jar of turquoise custom chalk paint and a few brushes. I haven’t done as many projects since my move to DC and my mind is spinning with all of the ideas that I could use this for! Plus you can never have too many brushes.

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In my mind coffee is a love language all on its own. Chelsea sent me this adorable mug, a few K Cups and homemade chocolate spoon stirrers. They were SO GOOD — now I feel like I need one for every cup of coffee I have.

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Everything in the gift was great, but this last part really hit it out of the ballpark. I love saving different wine corks (and the wine itself of course) and stealing them out of my stash from time to time for a craft. But I’m not sure Chelsea understands just how PERFECT this particular holder is for me. Yes, I used to work for the Kansas Pork Association, but my love for pigs runs far deeper than that. Everyone has a few things that they find hard to explain their love for without seeming a bit loony, and for me, pigs go on the top of that list. This is SO CUTE, and will go perfectly in my home.

Chelsea, thank you so much for taking the time to get to know me and for each of the fun gifts. I hope you had a wonderful season with your family and I wish you the best in 2016.

 Thank you to Laurie, Jamie, Kirby and Lara for being this year’s exchange hosts! This was a fun way to enjoy the holidays and make new blogger friends in agriculture.
Click HERE to view the Link Up of other bloggers who participated and to see what everyone gifted each other!

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Kylie

“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

This series highlights young professionals and their stories, because no matter our path we all have a little to share and a lot to learn. Read and learn from past feature posts HERE.

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This week I would like to introduce you to Kylie, one of my new friends here in D.C. I’m laughing as I write this because just this past weekend at a holiday party one of her friends asked me, “how did you meet Kylie?” My response? “Online.” I never would have thought that the writing I do to scrapbook my life over here in my little corner of the internet would ever lead me to making a friend in real life. But early this past summer we both linked our blogs to a bigger blogger that we both follow, which led her to find mine and leave a comment. We started reading each others posts and soon learned that she had recently moved to an apartment just about a mile away from mine. The first time we hung out we kept joking that it was equivalent to the awkwardness of a blind first date. As you will read below, life here in the DC area is typically pretty busy, so we are still “becoming friends,” but I am already so thankful to have met Kylie. She is passionate about her job as a rookie 2nd grade teacher, and is humble and honest about the ups and downs of balancing it all. She has a great sense of humor and adventure, and is so easy to relate to (except for her obsession with candy corn…)

-Amanda

Kylie Insta
This is Kylie’s school picture for this year… I feel like getting to take school pictures as an adult redeems one from years of awkward braces and horrible trends growing up!

Basics
Name: Kylie McGraw
Age: 24
Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA
College: Duquesne University & University of Maryland, College Park
Degree(s): B.S. Early Level Education (Duquesne), Master’s of Education in Reading (UMD)
Current Location: Arlington, VA
Current Job: 2nd Grade Teacher

Background Story: I’m the oldest of three and I love my brothers to pieces. My mom’s family all lives really close together, so I grew up knowing the family is really important. I went to school where my mom was a teacher, so I spent a lot of time in her classroom. I don’t remember deciding that I was going to be a teacher, but I told everyone who asked that I was going to be a teacher when I grew up. Hailing from The Steel City, I do in fact bleed black and gold. I like french fries on my salads, ketchup with most everything I eat, and a cookie table at every major event I attend. Pittsburgh has really grown and changed since it gained its name as The Steel City, and I really got to know it better when I went to college! I’m a self-proclaimed candy corn addict and crazy dog lady…even though Colby and Amigo live with my family in Pittsburgh. I love coffee, the dessert menu, running long distances, and laying on the beach.

Kylie 3
With my brothers.

College

How did you choose your college and your major?
I never really chose my major. As I mentioned, I decided at a young age that I was going to be a teacher and that is the dream I chased for my whole life. My mom has been teaching kindergarten for 27 years so I had a great role model!

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
I had two jobs that I loved! I taught Spinning classes at the gym and worked as a tutor in The Writing Center. Last year when I was a full-time grad student, I continued both of those jobs at my new university, but I was also a research assistant. I like to keep busy!

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
Every so often, there would be some roommate drama. Living with good friends can be harder than you think! I am the kind of person who doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, so instead of addressing issues that would come up, I would just ignore them. Senior year, I ended up not talking to one of my roommates (the one I actually shared a room with) for almost four months. We said “hello”, “how was your day”, and “bye”, but that was about it. I wish I hadn’t worried so much about hurting her feelings and just said, “Hey! How can we fix this?” Eventually I addressed all the problems that arose, but not without a long awkward period in between the incident and the talk.

I also struggled with my health and body image. College is the first time when you are really in control of what you eat and how much you work out, and I was a statistic. I went to college and gained weight. I only gained about 9 pounds, but I felt puffy and bloated and I wasn’t happy with how I looked at all. I started to change my eating and exercise habits healthfully, but then I got really extreme and struggled with a little bit of orthorexia, which is an obsession with eating foods that you consider healthy. I only ate certain foods, I counted every calorie that went inside my body, and I worked out more than once a day. Most people were telling me that I looked great, but it wasn’t until a few friends said something not so nice about me behind my back that I realized I was doing something wrong. I never sought professional help for these issues because since I recognized them in myself, I felt that I could fix them, with the support of my family and friends. My mom and my best friend at the time were my go-to people if I ever needed someone to remind me that I did NOT in fact need to work out again or I was actually “allowed” to eat the piece of bread on the table.

I wouldn’t change either of these experiences because they made me more confident and healthy post grad.

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
I would tell a senior in college to take advantage of all the events that their campus has to offer. You and your friends DO need to go to a football game, eat the special Thanksgiving dinner in the dining hall, and go to the Christmas Ball. All of the things that you may have skipped in previous years — get your friends and go do them. On the other hand, it’s just as acceptable to stay in and watch movies because your stress levels will probably rise as you finish up your final classes and start thinking about the real world. Remember that there is a whole summer after graduation, so if you get your diploma and you still feel like you have no idea what you’re doing, it’s okay. Make decisions about grad school or your first job, but take a breath. I realized that in the real world, no one really knows what they’re doing…but as long as you put your best foot forward, you’ll go places. 🙂

Kylie 1
Colby (bottom) and Amigo (top)

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?

My plan for grad school was to go to UMD for 2 years to get my Master’s in Reading and then move back home to Pittsburgh. Once I moved to this area, I loved it and couldn’t imagine leaving so soon. I was a person who said they would never do their first year of teaching while they were still in grad school because both are such huge time commitments and I wanted to make sure they were both getting my “all”. Since I took most of the classes for my Master’s last year, by the end of the spring semester, I felt like I would be able to manage my first year of teaching and taking one night class. I interviewed at a few different elementary schools in Virginia in June and finally found the right school for me. I was offered a second grade teaching position at the end of my interview! My coworkers are so supportive as I figure out what it means to finally be in charge of my own class. I expected some of the challenges I have faced so far, but sometimes I really have to go back and kind of reteach something, especially when it comes to classroom routines. This is not something that I anticipated and I feel really guilty when I have to make time to do something like that. But, my coworkers always remind me that it is vital and that they still have to do that sometimes too. My students are only 7 years old so behavior is a learning experience each and every day! I really do have a great class so I feel very lucky in my first year of teaching. 🙂

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
When I was choosing colleges, I didn’t look very far away from home. However, it was really important to me to go to a school that would let me be in elementary classrooms all throughout my program. Years ago, education students would take college classes for 3.5 years and then step into a classroom for the first time during student teaching. That was a shock for some who ended up realizing they weren’t where they wanted to be. At Duquesne, I was in a variety of different kinds of schools every semester of college leading up to student teaching. Some of my friends even switched majors (think elementary to middle school) after our first field experience! I think going to all of the different schools let me figure out what kind of school and what age I wanted to work with. Since my mom teaches kindergarten, I always thought I wanted to do that, but I had a lot of experience with second graders during undergrad and now that I am actually teaching second grade, I can’t imagine being in a younger grade (at least right now)! I was also involved in an several organizations in the School of Education that worked to support families in the community. Volunteering with families at places like the Ronald McDonald House opened my eyes to what a student’s life could be like outside of school.

On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for?
I didn’t expect to still feel so stressed about money. In college, you know your funds are going to be a little limited. Apparently, I had this great vision that once I finally had a “real job”, I would exhale and feel totally calm about money and buy whatever I wanted without feeling guilty. Ha! Not so. Currently, I am living within my means, but I always wonder if I can be saving more, donating more, and so on.

As far as my job goes, I didn’t expect to second guess myself so much. In each of my field experiences and in student teaching, I always felt confident in the choices I was making, but that’s probably because I had a lot of guidance. My coworkers and I plan as a team, but I still have a lot of my own choices to make in my classroom. It’s hard for me to understand that I can plan the world’s best lesson and it’s possible that it might not reach all of my students for one reason or another. I can ask thoughtful questions, assign engaging projects, and still reach the end of the lesson and see that some of my students don’t “get it”. Even though there are many reasons why a student might not get it (academic, social, emotional, etc.), I take it personally and wonder what I did wrong. I try to channel those negative thoughts into positive ones, as I am always asking myself what I can do better tomorrow, but it’s still a tough pill to swallow!

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What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
I don’t know that these resources will be of any interest to the regular person, but they make sense for teachers! My teammates and I use an online planbook to write and share resources for lesson plans. I like being able to have everything in one place because if I wrote my lesson plans with pen on paper, I would probably have half my resources printed out and another half in an electronic format on my laptop! With our online planbook, I can log right in, see what I have written for that day or week, and print everything I need from one place. We also use Microsoft OneNote to plan future units and share student data. My students use TumbleBooks and PebbleGo to listen and read stories electronically. They also use Dreambox to practice their math skills in an electronic format. Dreambox is awesome because it teaches them in a game-like format and they are taught based on their current level of learning. So, for example, if they advance to the next math concept and they get a certain number of questions or problems wrong, the game automatically bumps them back a lesson to reteach the concept they are struggling with.

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
I am a team player but I also appreciate a little bit of independence. Being a teacher gives me a lot of independence in deciding how I want to teach a certain lesson, but I definitely don’t isolate myself from my coworkers. The other second grade teachers and the reading specialist have been such a huge support system for me as I get all of my ideas in order during this first year. Because of that, I try to share my ideas with them when I can! I want them to see me as a team player, too. On the other hand, I’m a worrier and I want to do everything right. I ask a lot of questions (which is a good thing), but sometimes my questions are more along the lines of, “Is it okay that I did/said ________?” I want to work on having more confidence in my decisions!

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
I try to have conversations with my students that aren’t about school. They bring so many random trinkets to school and they always have a story to tell, so if I make sure to find an extra few minutes for them to share something either with me or with the class so that we can all relax. And because I am still taking a night class this year, sometimes a motivating thought is, “Life won’t be like this forever.” Regardless of what your life is like, you don’t want to wish time away, but sometimes the thought that things WILL change is a positive one.

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
I love to work out. I love to Spin, I love to attempt to lift weights in the fitness studio in my apartment, I love to try new classes at the gym, and I especially love to run. There are plenty of people that I know who ask me how I have time to work out while working full time, being in grad school, and trying to maintain a social life, but the saying is true: I don’t have time, I make time. I don’t get home from work and immediately feel like changing into my gym clothes, but I do. Deciding to do your workout is the hardest part. While you are running or biking or lifting, your mind is cleared of all the stress from the day. Then when you have completed the workout, you feel accomplished and oh so proud. It also helps that my principal supports a work-life balance. She encourages us to have other hobbies and interests outside of our classrooms, which is wonderful!

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?
I’m most proud of the fact that I moved away from home and created a life for myself that I love. I never thought I would be a person who moved away from her family, for whatever amount of time it may be, but here I am. And no one tells you the rollercoaster of emotions that comes with moving away from everyone and everything you know. All you hear about is the excitement of that new place! At first, you won’t have friends. You will have to go places by yourself. You will feel like everyone at home is having so much fun and you’re “stuck” in this new place alone. And then pretty soon, you learn how to put yourself out there and make some friends and life starts to feel pretty great.

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?.
I am passionate about Jesus, my family, fitness, healthy eating, reading, and writing. Monday through Friday, I am very focused on my job and my workouts, but I try to work out with friends to make it even more fun. 🙂 Come the weekend, I am oh so tired, but I try to get out at least once a weekend to do something new and/or fun! I still consider myself new to the area and there is so much to see and do. I’ve made new friends at running groups that I attend and I’ve made new friends at church, so it’s important to me to make time to see those people!

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Running group friends.

Just for Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
I intentionally set my alarm a bit early so I don’t have to pop out of bed when it rings in the morning. I like to lay around for a few minutes and read one of my devotionals. I have my Bible, Jesus Calling, my journal, and whichever faith-based book I am reading at the time on my nightstand, so I pick one of those and read for a few minutes before I get up. Right now, I am reading my pastor’s (Mark Batterson) new book called “If”. Once I am up and moving, I turn the TV on in the family room so I can listen to Good Morning America while I get ready! And typically, I am at work about an hour early. I eat breakfast at my desk and just get my mind right for the day (and usually get 107 things together before the students show up).

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
I just have to have some kind of beverage! I drink water on the way to work, I sip on my coffee all morning, and then I keep refilling my water bottle all day. Sometimes a little Peach Tea Crystal Light in my water or an extra cup of coffee in the afternoon happens, but I like to think I am pretty low-maintenance (and not caffeine dependent!) when it comes to beverages. 🙂

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
I would want to be a magazine or newspaper editor in New York City. In this life, I will write in some capacity for my career one day. I’m working on that now. 🙂 In college, I started writing my blog so that I could share my new adventures in running and healthy eating. The perfectionist in me wants to have a great post every day, so my blog has ebbed and flowed since it began in 2013. 2015 is actually the first year I have blogged consistently, and I am so happy to be writing more and connecting with the blogging community. You can find keep up with all of my adventures here HERE.

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
I am pretty introverted and I love hanging out by myself, but honestly how nice was it to have all of your friends either in your room or right next door?! There was always something to do!

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Kylie, thank you so much for being a guest on this series and being so genuine. I am so glad that these little blogs of ours brought us together!

As always, thanks for reading friends!

Cheers.

Linking up this Monday with these bloggers:

 MingleMondayBIG

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