I have known since I was four
that I wanted to be a teacher.

Teaching is in my blood.
Even more specifically
public school teaching is
in my blood.
For I am a fourth-generation
public school educator.

My grandmother’s mother
Catherine Scanlon
was a school principal
in Chicago at the turn of
the century.
Two turns ago.
They wouldn’t let her stay
when she got married and
had a family,
so her career was
artificially shortened by
cultural norms
of the day.

My grandmother
Helen Heitman
was a kindergarten teacher
for 30 years in a
suburb of Chicago.
Everywhere we went
with her when we visited
she was warmly greeted
by her students and
their families.
She substituted in her school
into her 80s and
attended many high school
and college graduations
and weddings.

My mother
Millie Heitman
was a reading specialist,
substitute teacher and
Head Start teacher.
She finished her undergraduate degree
and then her Masters in
night school while also
working and raising a family.
She was also the president
of the statewide reading council
and tutored students in our home.

I have followed in
each of their footsteps
and became a
public school teacher.
Counting five years subbing,
one year student teaching and
14 with my own class,
I hit the 20-year mark this year.
It has had its challenges
and it’s joys.
Some simultaneously.

But my knowledge at four
holds true at 59.
Most days, anyway.
I want to be
a teacher.
And I am lucky to
have a rich
family history
to pull from.
To buoy me on the good days
and shore me up
on the hard ones.


Jennifer Gurney lives in Colorado where she teaches, paints, writes and hikes. Her poetry has appeared in a variety of journals, including The Ravens Perch, HaikUniverse, Haiku Corner, Cold Moon Journal, Scarlet Dragonfly and The Haiku Foundation.