A New Beginning and a Dream Fulfilled

In early February, a recruiter reached out to me via LinkedIn about a position in a law firm.  After nearly a year of the pandemic plus plans for a restructuring of my team at work, I felt ready to make a change. I updated my resume for the first time in over a decade!  As I engaged in the recruiting process, I contemplated what God had planned for my life’s work.  The law firm job was enticing from a compensation standpoint, but it also sounded very intense and potentially soul crushing.

While praying about the future on Ash Wednesday, I suddenly thought: If I’m going to leave CBIZ, I should pursue my heart’s desire, which is to work at Cambridge. I wonder if they are hiring right now.  I should check…  

My dream for the past few years has been to teach at The Cambridge School. In 2008, I finished my Master’s Degree in History but then put my teaching dream on hold for financial reasons. CBIZ has been a wonderful place to work and grow for over 16 years, and it provided well for me and our family.  However, my desire to teach and participate in a school community was ever present.  As the kids matriculated to Cambridge and experienced a rich Christian, classical curriculum, it rekindled my passion for this kind of formative education. 

Upon checking the Cambridge Careers webpage, I was ecstatic to find a posting for a newly created position: History Department Chair for the Upper School!  The full description confirmed my hunch that this was my dream job!   It had the administrative, operations and leadership responsibilities that I’d cultivated during my years at CBIZ, plus the joy of teaching history!  My heart sank when I read the requirements which included an advanced degree in History and five years of teaching experience.  My teaching experience was deficient, limited to just one year teaching as a Graduate Assistant at SDSU.

As God’s perfect timing rolled out, Dennis and I had a video call scheduled with the Head of School and Director of Advancement, Jean and Jeff, the very next morning.  Dennis and I discussed and decided to ask them on the call whether I should apply for the position or not.  Maybe the experience issue would be a non-starter.  I prayed that God’s will would be done and eagerly anticipated our call the next morning. We had a delightful conversation and both Jean and Jeff encouraged me to apply for the position!

The next week was a whirlwind!  Turns out the recruiting process was wrapping up so I hustled to complete the application and essay questions before turning my attention to preparing for my demo lesson on Friday.  I was asked to prepare a lesson for the modern European History class, which had already covered the Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment philosophies.  Since the class just started studying the French Revolution, I chose to teach a lesson on how Enlightenment ideas shaped the French Revolution. 

I’m teaching a demo lesson in three days on a topic I’m not entirely comfortable with yet! This idea was equal parts terrifying and exhilarating!  I prayed constantly as I sought insight, focus, and a whole lot of inner calm.  One of my favorite verses brought such peace: Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.  The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:4-7

Off to Barnes & Noble I went after work on Tuesday evening to get my source material.  My little scholarly heart was overjoyed to have a topic to research!  The next morning I woke up at 3:30 a.m. and couldn’t get back to sleep as ideas and questions popped into my mind.  Finally at 5:00 a.m. I got up, started the coffee, and dug into the readings.  I spent all day reading, taking notes, and formulating an outline of the historical events.  Dennis watched me and commented, “You’re loving this, aren’t you?” 

“Yes, so much!” I replied.  Getting to use these mental muscles was pure joy, plus I was fueled by the nervous energy of striving for a job I wanted so badly.  Giddiness interspersed with moments of terror characterized those few days.

It was really sweet to watch the kids, Sienna in particular, grapple with the idea of their mom working at Cambridge.  At first, Sienna was wary.  On Wednesday evening she said to me, “You should get this job, mom.  You’re working so hard.” Then, on Thursday afternoon as we sat in the Starbucks drive-thru, she dreamily commented, “Oh, I could tell kids ‘My mom works at Cambridge!’” My sweet girl.

As my notes and timeline came together, I struggled with finding the right balance between lecture and discussion for the demo class.  I’d come across a great primary source to read and discuss: the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen.  It was drafted during the revolution and clearly showed the influence of Enlightenment philosophies.  By practicing my lecture over dinner to Dennis, Sienna and Mateo, I was able to identify places to cut back to make room for the discussion.  After calling my brother (who did the same Great Books program as me at St. Mary’s) to talk through my plans, I finally felt ready!

By the time Friday morning arrived, I was full of excited energy.  When my anxiety flared, I kept praying and reminding myself to be fully present to soak in every moment.  The interviews, conversations, and lunch gathering were all so stimulating and supportive.  I felt such a connection and so comfortable with the wonderful people who already found their vocations at Cambridge. The demo lesson went well!  I identified some things I wished I’d done differently, but all in all, I was proud of what I accomplished.

The thing I want to remember from this experience is how utterly I depended on God for peace, grace, and wisdom during the days of preparation.  It was a real life illustration of how a growth mindset sets you free to try your best.  If I had a fixed mindset or was hooked by fears of failure (i.e. perfectionism!) I would have collapsed under the stress of preparing for the demo lesson and interviews. 

Relaxing at the beach after the interviews and demo lesson – what a great feeling!!

In hindsight, I could see how God only gave me the information I needed to take each next step in faith.  If I’d known when I asked Jean and Jeff about the position that I’d be teaching a demo lesson a week later, I may not have had the courage to ask!  As it happened, I just took the next step and prayed fervently for strength, wisdom, and peace to handle each task in front of me. 

I’ve also reflected a lot over the ensuing months about the ways God equips us for our vocations in his kingdom slowly throughout our lives.  My undergrad program at Saint Mary’s and then my MA in History were wonderful preparation to teach in a classical school.  Obviously, I had no way of knowing that Cambridge was in my future when embarking on those studies, but God did.  Likewise, it’s fulfilling to see how my experiences at CBIZ helped me build skills that are transferrable to a school setting.  

As the Holy Spirit suggested might happen (during one of my morning runs), rather than the History Department Chair, I was offered a position to teach history in the upper school! Cambridge is giving me the opportunity to grow into the chair role by providing the teaching experience I need.  I’m so humbled and grateful that they are giving me time and space to grow.  What a gift and further confirmation that God equips us over time.

It’s so exciting to finally share this news!  I’m wrapping up my time at CBIZ next week, after almost 16 ½ years.  Transitions are hard, but the past few months have given me time to adjust and the leadership has been very supportive. I’ve developed some special relationships at work that can now become personal friendships. 

Now I’m off to read and prepare for my two classes next fall!