My path and Jenny's path have crossed in different places at different times in the past 2 years.
Regardless of the situation I have always been struck by her grace, intelligence and most gentle spirit. I am honored that Jenny has chosen to share her story with us today - it is women like her that make this world a warm, safe, place for us and our loved ones.
Jenny's quote closes the interview, but I also want to open with it because it is beautiful:
“Childhood is a journey, not a race. I believe that every child (and person) has an important story and a unique way of learning...gaining confidence and experiencing success builds momentum and the willingness to keep learning, growing and thriving."
K: Tell us where you grew up, a bit about your upbringing and what you were like as a child?
J: I grew up on a farm in Spring Valley, WI.I am the oldest of 4 kids. As a rule-follower and a pleaser, I worked hard at school and wanted everyone to like me. As the oldest, I often took the opportunity to enforce the list of chores my working mother left on the table for us each day. Despite my bossy demeanor with my siblings in the safety of my home, I was shy and insecure with the outside world. As farm kids we were taught to work hard, help others and always be honest in all we do.
K: What did you want to be when you grew up?
J: Initially I wanted to be an optometrist, but double majoring in chemistry and biology was not for me! I’ve always been a teacher at heart. Being the oldest child on both sides, I had lots of opportunities to babysit. Many of my childhood days were spent playing school and instructing my sisters, brother, and cousins on the chalkboard hung in my room. I got early training in classroom management when my “students” were less than cooperative!
K: What are the highlights of your journey into adulthood-pivotal moments, important lessons, discoveries about yourself, the world and others?
*Marrying my husband, Jeff, at 19 was certainly an adventure. We grew up together as we raised our first son, worked full time jobs and finished college. Our families were amazing support systems who taught us to stick together through better or worse.
*Twelve years of secondary infertility taught this Type A perfectionist that I can’t control everything and that God’s timing is definitely not our timing. The monthly emotional roller coaster filled with ovulation kits, pregnancy tests, the dreaded question of “Are you pregnant YET?” and my growing son begging for a baby kept me in tears on a regular basis. After looking into adoption, we ultimately chose in vitro fertilization and was blessed with another baby in 2001. Then 5 months later when I thought I had the flu, I was pregnant again! God certainly has a sense of humor!
*Given my seemingly storybook childhood, my world was rocked when in my 30’s my parents divorced shortly after my mom was diagnosed with cancer. She moved in with me, and I spent the next few years caring for her. I found out about the difficult life she lived all the while protecting us and teaching us right from wrong. To this day, I am learning to forgive and work on my own marriage in hopes of preventing history repeating itself.
*After a wonderful 21-year career in teaching, I felt called to be home to nurture my own family and search for something new. That first year of “finding myself” was the best of times and the worst of times. I lived a less hectic, more intentional life. However, I also felt lonely and disconnected as I realized how much of my identity had been wrapped up in a job.
K: Do you have any morning/evening rituals that you practice regularly?
-I work out at least 3 times a week with a friend. Fitting into my jeans is my primary motivation and having accountability makes it much easier to get up at 5:00 am!
-I read my Bible and pray most mornings which grounds me and gives me strength to face the day
-I read and pray for my kids before I go to bed. I’ve seen many situations turn around after speaking Scriptural truth over them
K: What is your current calling and how are you aligning with it?
My youngest two sons are 11th and 12th graders. I believe I need to finish this phase of mothering well as they look toward their next steps.
In addition, I stay connected to education and the schools by substitute teaching. Given the challenges for teachers and for kids in schools, I feel called to start a prayer network to pray for schools, staff and families near me.
A year ago, I started a private tutoring business in an effort to continue using my teaching skills to meet the needs of kids individually.
K: Tell us more about your new tutoring business:
I am the owner of LiftOff Learning, a private one-on-one tutoring company for elementary and middle school students in reading and math. Working one-on-one with kids is a welcome change to having 25 kids in a classroom.
I am finding that kids need someone to listen and help build their confidence as much as they need academic support. Often there are just a few gaps in learning that need to be filled before they are ready to take more risks and build on their successes.
The business side of things is a growing edge for me, but I am taking it one step at a time with the help of other mentors and strong business women. I’ve attended some networking groups and I’m working at connecting with other tutors in an effort to support each other. Starting this business alone has been one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences in my life.
K: What is the one thing you are most proud of so far in your life?
Having the courage to leave a successful career in which I was highly respected and valued to pursue a higher purpose. I have learned o much about myself and others in the journey to find my true identity. My faith and my family keep me grounded and stable in the storms of life.
K: What do you want your legacy to be?
I want to be known as a person who loved God and others well and lived with excellence…not perfection, but by valuing what’s true and right. I hope people will remember me as a passionate learner and teacher who valued the uniqueness of each person.
K: What else do you want us to know?
Perhaps the best moment of my life (after having my own children) was being present for the birth of my first granddaughter. Watching my son meet his daughter for the first time was more precious than I could have ever imagined.
“Childhood is a journey, not a race.” I believe that every child (and person) has an important story and a unique way of learning. I strive to help kids discover their strengths and gifts as I help them plug gaps in their learning. Gaining confidence and experiencing success builds momentum and the willingness to keep learning, growing and thriving.
Professional Private Tutor, LiftOff Learning Center, LLC