Hailey Achtor Nash
A teaching beginning
I’ve been called Miss Hailey, Miss Achter, and Mrs. Nash. I was born and raised in Layton, Utah and grew up with two sisters and one brother. Maybe it was the hours of “pretend school” we played with hand written worksheets and rotated turns of being “Principal Achter.” Maybe it was our mom’s love for learning and encouraging us every summer to pick a specific subject to study and report on after taking us to the library. Maybe it was watching our dad use up reams of paper to patiently explain math problems. Maybe it was the example and influence of a long list of “All-Time Favorite K-12 Teachers.” Maybe it was working in after school programs throughout high school and college to pay for tuition. Maybe it was that sweet moment each of us experienced as reading tutors helping a child sound out their first word. Maybe it was in our genes from 3 of our grandparents being educators. Whatever it was, all three sisters became teachers in the Davis School District. During my 3rd year of teaching, I married the cutest guy from Indiana. At the end of my 5th year of teaching, we welcomed our sweet little boy who has brought on a deeper perspective of life and the joy it has to offer.
In 2010, the idea of actually being a teacher to a class full of 6th graders was extremely intimidating. I remember the first roll I nervously held with “Miss Achter” printed on the top and prayerfully reading down the list of faceless names, wondering if I could teach them something. After 5 years of teaching and 152 twelve-year-olds later, I came to realize that each of those 152 taught me something…
Like my boy with years of social/anger management issues who smiled as he gave me a sign that said, “I can do hard things.”
My girl who lost her father and shared the most insightful journal entries.
My boys who for no desire of reward trudged through a snowstorm to gather canned food for our school drive.
My girl who after years of dealing with a disease with her best attitude passed on leaving a sweet legacy.
My students who constantly rooted for a special needs boy who spent an hour a day in my classroom.
My boy who read 32 words per minute who did his best to participate in class.
My girl who asked everyday if there was something she could help me with.
My shy boy who anonymously wrote a specific complement for every student in the class.
My “popular” girl who stopped to comfort a crying 1st grader.
My girls who secretly planned out and put on a surprise BBQ party for our whole class.
My class who once they found out that a field trip was cancelled, followed the lead of a boy who called out, “Hey! We can totally practice finding joy in our journey right now!”
152 names. 152 faces. 152 hearts.
The final day I stood at the door of my classroom, I saw the empty desks and chairs stacked to the side, the walls were barren, I turned out the lights, and my eyes filled with tears. Why was I leaving something that gave me such great value and meaning to my life?
I drove home and cuddled my sweet new babe, sang to him, and looked deeply into his eyes almost hoping he would speak some words of comfort. This was the moment I had always dreamed of, to be a stay at home mom. I just hadn’t planned to find such a passion in teaching. I cried to my husband, “If I miss teaching this much, does that somehow taint the love I have for our baby?” My husband, who has always been good with his words replied, “As he grows and you tell him your teaching stories, he will feel your love magnified because you chose to leave teaching to be with him.” I mulled these words over and a peace began to settle within my heart.
I have realized for all women; our love is magnified in different ways. For the moms who continue in the workforce out of necessity or choice, their love is magnified when their child grows to understand the sacrifice they are making to keep them fed and clothed. For the teachers without children of their own, their special love ripples and influences the lives of hundreds, even thousands of children. All of these women, no matter their circumstance, can make a difference with their love.
“Hi, my name is Hailey, and I’m a 6th grade teacher,” was how I often introduced myself for those 5 years. Being a teacher defined me in so many ways. Since leaving teaching, I struggled finding myself amidst the postpartum hormones, leaving a career, and moving to a different state. But I learned a lot about myself and my baby boy. He smiled the best gummy smile. He rolled from his tummy to his back, he grew a tooth, he started scooting, then crawling. He used the couch to stand up, and then, he started walking. I’ve learned what can make him laugh and what makes him cry. He scrunches his nose to try to look like a bunny. He’s scared of his shadow. He loves to dance. He pronounces dinosaur, “dwar.” He will only eat carrots if they are cooked and chopped with a serrated knife. He likes to be kissed every time he bumps his head and says, “tiss, bunt heeeeeaaad.” He folds his arms before every meal and kneels down to say prayers at night. My favorite is when I find him quietly pulling down every single book on his shelf and flipping through the pages. Every time we go to the store, we go down the school aisle together. When we meet someone new I say, “Hi, my name is Hailey, and this is my son, Nolan.”
I’ve realized that being a mother goes hand in hand with being a teacher. There are so many things I learned as a teacher that have helped me become a mom. And I’m realizing how much influence I have over my son. The other day I watched him feed a doll, wrap her in a blanket, cuddle and place her in the crib. Without realizing it, I taught my son this routine. He’s watching me. I am still a teacher.
Words of advice to other women
I miss teaching full time, but I don’t want to go back. (replace not going back with I am happy where I am in life now) And often I feel like a human contradiction when I try to explain my feelings about this to people.
In the movie La La Land (SPOILER ALERT), as Mia leaves the jazz club she realizes that the experiences she shared with Seb are the reason she is where she is today. She can look back on her time with him with great appreciation. She gives a sweet smile and turns towards her future with the confidence and wisdom gained from the past and a heart full for the opportunities and life ahead of her.
As we left the movie, I found myself frustrated and conflicted with the ending. My husband pointed out that the experience would not have been so memorable had it ended the way I wanted it to.
The conflict of what was, what could be, what is, and can be, is what makes life so beautiful.
I look back at my teaching with great appreciation and a sweet smile. I have turned towards my future with the confidence and wisdom gained from the past and a heart full for the opportunities and life ahead of me.
Don’t be afraid of your conflicts. Have faith that your life will play out beautifully.
Hailey is also VERY talented in other areas too. Please check out her work at: Hailey Nash Art
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