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Annika's Story

October 21, 2021

I knew deep down that I should major in English when I arrived at Southern, but I was afraid. I wanted a “practical” major, but I didn’t necessarily want to write for a living and definitely didn’t want to teach. During my general education English classes, however, I knew that God was calling me to the field of English.

Over the next four years, I felt at home in the English department with exceptional professors who cared for me as an individual as well as a scholar. Although I was still terrified of teaching, I became so passionate about what I was learning that I gradually became excited to share it with others.

After I graduated (COVID style) in May of 2020, I eloped with my husband. We enjoyed a gorgeous little ceremony at the City of Rocks National Reserve in Idaho, then we packed everything and moved to Hawaii so that I could begin teaching English at Hawaiian Mission Academy. As is the case in most Adventist academies, we have a small faculty. I am the only English teacher of five classes – English 100-400 and AP English Language and Composition.

I quickly realized that teaching would, as I expected, be the most difficult thing I ever had to do. That being said, I am still here, still teaching, and love it. I survived my first year, and it’s getting better with every month under my belt. So, whether you are a nervous student teacher, a seasoned veteran, or on a different career path, I hope that something from my story is applicable to your life, however different it may be.

Here are a few things I’ve learned in my first 1.25 years as a teacher:

Teens are actually fun. I really thought I wouldn’t like this age group, but I thoroughly enjoy them. 90% of them want to do well, so believing in them will be rewarding far more often than it will be disappointing. I am also blessed with wonderful parents and a supportive community, which I know some teachers do not have.

Even though I truly love my students and was pleasantly surprised by their willingness to learn, I see the effect that America’s media addiction has had on them. I can strive to teach effective communication, but my class cannot undo years’ worth of screens instead of books and creative play. How do I motivate my students to actually read?

In the classroom, things will go wrong, every day, all the time. By now, I just expect everything to go wrong and to have to recreate a lesson on the spot from the resources that are still functioning at that time. Teachers are expert creative problem solvers. I think developing this skill in the classroom has benefited my personal life and given me flexibility.

I knew all along that this job would have challenges, but I didn’t expect to throw myself so fully into something that I would genuinely enjoy so much. I did, however, know that God was calling me to teach, so why was I still surprised when teaching was the career that fulfilled me? Following God’s leading in my career has further solidified my trust in God.

I have learned to claim this promise: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). I am incapable of doing everything that this job demands of me, and that’s okay. I can only do my absolute best within the boundaries that I set in order to maintain my mental health. I’ve finally accepted that I can’t be enough or do enough, but God can use me because of that, not in spite of that. I know that teaching is what I was meant to do. And if it was any easier, it wouldn’t be quite as fulfilling. I truly believe that.

Annika Northrop Armstrong