El Paso native finds calling in teaching

Cheryl Cunningham

Editor’s note: Cheryl Cunningham, 40, is a fifth-grade teacher at Cameo Elementary School in Clovis. She lives in Friona with her husband Joe and their three dogs, Goose, Buddy and Betsy. The El Paso native teaches language arts and social studies.

With a degree in business management, I am the untraditional, back-door teacher. For love, I moved to this part of the country in 1999.
Arriving in Friona after living most of my life in a town of 750,000 people, this was culture shock. However, I have learned to love the quiet and the absence of traffic.
In El Paso I worked with corporate America and faced a high-paced, hustle-bustle bump and grind on a daily basis. Here I’ve found that not only is there little choice in professions, but that I can finally pursue something I had been on the periphery of all my life.
I persisted, convinced the powers that be that I could do the job, took a $7,000 annual pay cut and became a teacher.
I have indirectly served children for most of my life in a myriad of white-collar positions including grant writing for Children’s Protective Services and managing early-childhood programs from Alaska to Texas.
Somehow I always felt that I was not answering my calling to its full potential. I would reminisce of days watching my mother interact with her first graders and burn the midnight oil to get the things done that she never had time for at school.
Knowing well the demands on time and relationships, I often wonder why I was so inspired to work with children. Today I have more respect for my mother’s evening nap because I now take my own.
These days I find myself frequently questioning my enlightenment, with a hoarse voice of course, especially after long days spending 7 1/2 hours with 27 not-so-sweet-smelling fifth graders.
However, a weekend of rest, pampering, Lifetime TV, romantic dinners with my husband and spiritual uplifting will surely re-inspire me.
Who wouldn’t be inspired to go back to the classroom after a weekend of cleaning my house, washing a week’s worth of laundry, calling my kids, e-mailing my mom, paying bills, balancing my checkbook, grading 114 papers, planning this week’s lessons, updating my class’ Web site and catching up on a week’s worth of my own procrastinated homework?
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