Looking Back on 20 Years in K-12 Education

Dana GoodierBlog, Connect Better, Reflect Better


  • Read a reflection on some pieces of Dana’s journey in K-12 education.
  • There are many people to thank over the course of 20 years.

This week, in early August, I recall it being exactly 20 years since I first came to Colorado and began my journey in K-12 education.

World Traveller Context

I lived in Quebec City, Canada for a few years after I finished my M.A. in education. There, I taught college freshmen English composition and research paper writing. I also taught English part-time for many adult language schools, as English is a second language for the French-speaking population there. I completed my secondary teaching internship in 1999 at middle and high schools in Tulsa, OK, but went to Quebec in the fall of 2000 to pursue a Ph.D. in linguistics.

A Call Out of the Blue

When I got the call in 2002 to interview for a French position in Colorado Springs, CO, it wasn’t even something I applied to. The high school principal found my profile on www.teachers-teachers.com (a site that still exists for educators who want to cast a wide net where they’re applying). I basically uploaded my resume and checked the states/provinces where I was willing to move. I was working in Norway that summer as a tour guide and planned on staying until the tourist season ended late August. Lo and behold, I was interviewed by phone and hired to teach high school French.

I wrote this blog post to look back on the adventure of moving to a place I knew nothing about to start a new job. Click To Tweet

Moving Blindly to a Brand-New Place

From there, I had to change my airline ticket which was booked to go back from Norway to Quebec City. I ended up buying a one-way ticket to Colorado Springs. Prior to this, I only visited Colorado once before, as a toddler! I knew nothing about the area. My parents connected me with a distant family member who I was able to stay with while I looked for a place to rent or buy. I arrived at the school a few days into new teacher orientation, so I was able to get the majority of the info new hires need as it pertains to insurance, policies, etc.

Teaching Struggles

Starting off teaching high school French was a bit of a challenge. Although I completed my student teaching internship 3 years prior at that level, I did my internship at a magnet school in Tulsa where students applied to attend. It has a very strong World Language program. I also spent the past 2 years in an environment where I was a graduate student and TA/part-time English teacher to adults. I barely encountered any classroom management issues during my student teaching and very little (mostly in terms of disengagement) teaching college freshmen. So, I had to lean on the department chair a lot for classroom management support. There wasn’t much coaching from administration during this experience. It was more the “got ya” formal and informal classroom observations that highlighted what I was doing wrong.

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Struggle to Make Ends Meet

I also had the added challenge of moving halfway across the country (from Eastern Canada, to be exact). I flew all the way from my summer job in Norway to Colorado. So I took the week of Labor Day off. (The district docked my pay for 3 days because their policy was to not take more than 1 day of around a holiday.) I flew up to Quebec and drove my things back in a U-Haul. Around this date, I bought a townhome with a meager $1000 down payment.

Because starting teachers’ salaries were so low (even though I had an M.A., they didn’t take my 2 years teaching adults/college students as experience towards salary increment), I was barely able to keep up with my roughly $800 mortgage, heat, electricity, car insurance, and other bills. Even though my life is vastly different now 20 years later, I vividly remember and recognize the struggle for new(er) educators to make ends meet with a starting salary that still doesn’t pay a livable wage (in many states, CO included).

I wrote this blog post to look back on the adventure of moving to a place I knew nothing about to start a new job. If I knew about certain aspects of the job (lack of support with students, barely livable wage salary), I might have stayed put in Quebec. I may have chosen something different and never ended up in CO. Now I have lived here almost 20 years (aside from several months’ work in Norway over the years). It’s hard to believe I lived in the same place for so long. I worked in school districts up and down the Front Range. I am active in a state teachers’ organization and speak a state-wide teachers’ conferences every year.

Grateful for Support Along the Way

As I write this blog post and reflect back on these two decades, I have many people to thank who have supported me in my journey. There are several friends I taught with in the past 12-17 years who I remain friends with today. I gained support of several administrators who have recognized my desire to grow as an educator and lent their tips and insight into the shift to administration. I have parents to thank who were supportive in helping their child complete missing French assignments and ensured their child advocate for themselves. Finally, in the past two plus years, I have all my online connections to thank; both those I gained through Teach Better but also my many podcast guests. I would not be the educator I am today without this network!

Tweet me @danagoodier if this blog post makes you nostalgic for your first-year of teaching. Share what you learned that year and what you may have done differently!

About Dana Goodier

Dr. Dana Goodier has 20 years of experience in education. She has taught World Languages and English and worked as a middle school administrator. She completed her doctorate degree (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership early 2020. For her dissertation, she researched reasons parents were opting their students out of high-stakes testing at middle schools and how that affected the district accreditation rating. She often speaks at conferences, providing educators with techniques to minimize off-task behavior and to increase time on task. She is the host of the “Out of the Trenches” podcast, which features educators who share their stories of resiliency. Follow her on Twitter @danagoodier and visit her website at: www.danagoodier.com