My experience as a student-athlete at Princeton in women’s soccer and lacrosse prepared me for my career in ways I did not fathom at the time. My life was typical of most student-athletes: class, practice, lift, late meal, library, bed, then do it again, with maybe a night every now and then. This life, while busy and demanding, both inspired me and gave me the tools to have a successful career after college.
As a history major, a member of the Teacher Preparation Program, and an athlete at Princeton, I was fortunate to have a wide variety of experiences, all of which contributed to my choosing a career in education. I was exposed to different types of teaching that broadened my perception of what it means to be a teacher. My professors and coaches were creative, dynamic and engaging; they took the learning out of the traditional classroom that had four walls and books. My thesis advisor turned my carrel into a classroom as I read Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir late into the night, and my coaches used the field to demand excellence, then gave us the tools to achieve it. Even without chalkboards and a lectern, I was learning from excellent teachers. It is this broad definition of teaching that has formed the educational philosophy that guides me in my work as a history teacher, lacrosse coach, and dorm parent at a boarding school. I am just as likely to affect one young person in an after-practice conversation about personal responsibility to the team, as I am to spark in another a passion for the U.S. Constitution. Knowing that I can have an impact in so many different areas of a student’s life has inspired me to work in independent schools.
Not only did my experiences as a student-athlete at Princeton inspire me to do the job that I do, but they also gave me the tools to do that job effectively. First and foremost, Princeton gave me an unparalleled liberal arts education that I use every day in the history classroom. But beyond that, being a student-athlete gave me skills that I didn’t learn elsewhere. Learning to work within a team setting where I had to depend on and trust in my teammates to accomplish our team goals was crucial for my development as a teacher where the community of educators works together to mold a more complete student. Conversely, working and training in solitude was a skill I developed through long off-season training programs and long nights in the carrel. Knowing how to self motivate and complete the assignment to its fullest without an outside cheering section has served me well in my job, where I am alone up in front of a room of kids who are expecting me to know the answer. Lastly, learning to manage my time efficiently by completing my history reading on a bus to Cornell, or fitting a lift between class and practice so I didn’t miss an evening lecture has been crucial in my work in independent school: one minute I will be at practice, and the next I will be making a presentation in front of the Board of Trustees, both of which I will have had to prepare for within an hour of one another. These skills I learned while a student-athlete at Princeton.
While I know that many student-athletes will not go into education, I hope that they too are inspired by their own teachers, whatever their setting. For it is my teachers who have inspired me and given me the skills to succeed in life after Princeton.