This world needs more educators like Jodie. She is one of the most passionate and caring people and it really came through in this interview. It was difficult for me to figure out how I wanted to start this piece because all of Jodie’s answers were so passionate and heartfelt. If the world only had more people like Jodie it would be a much better place.
Jodie started out by telling me how she ended up in Arizona. She said, “I have traveled down the middle of the west having entered the world in Bismarck, North Dakota; grown up in Wheatland, Wyoming and adulted in Phoenix, Arizona. My dad’s job with the power plant dictated my early residential locations. My teaching career took me to Phoenix and Thunderbird High School within the Glendale Union High School District. Where I am today.”
Jodie’s passion for teaching and how much she cares about her students and the future of our country’s youth really showed through as she continued, “I live in a state that devalues my profession and the importance of educating our state’s youth, which includes my own children. Nationally and locally, the management of and funding for education is inadequate. Providing a free, public education for all students should be a priority as it is the basis of our country and an investment in a future that impacts us all. Instead, Arizona legislators deliberately work to provide the schools and students with less than the bare minimum. I am exhausted due to constant fighting for what should be a given.”
Jodie continued, “I have made a difference. I know this because my former students have taken the time to share this with me. I had a small part in shaping some teenagers into productive, reflective adults.”
I think everyone should know Jodie, but when I asked her why people should know her, she answered, “I am a teacher and will probably always identify as that, but I am no longer in the classroom each day with students. Instead, I teach teachers how to integrate technology into their instruction. Even as I write it, I can’t say that label of “teacher” completes me or satisfies me fully. I have always wanted to be a writer and earn a living as a writer. Due to my conservative nature and doubt about my abilities, I have never fully pursued that dream. I am unsure if that’s why I sometimes feel I don’t know who I am or that I am not who I am really supposed to be. Maybe that’s a common thought pattern for 40-year-olds who have had virtually the same careers for the better part of their adult lives. Maybe someone can tell me if this is how people feel. That life is never really a solid, clear path of understanding and acceptance. I do know that family is important, and my children are special beings who bring me laughter and pride.”
Here is a story Jodie shared to end the interview. “A couple of weeks prior to earning my teaching degree in 1999, I was in Greeley, Colorado at a job fair. As I was sitting down with interested school districts’ human resources representatives, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were enacting a massacre at Columbine about 60 miles away. I was staying with my sister-in-law in Longmont, CO and recall sitting on her couch watching the confusion, pain and horror play out on channel 9 news. I never imagined teaching could be a dangerous profession, but I started to wonder. When I began teaching, and we would have staff meetings, I would imagine how easily students with guns could trap us all and kill us if they wanted to. As we practiced lockdowns and talked about active shooters, I thought about keeping my students safe. I considered places to hide and how to respond. The likelihood of a shooting seemed to be an unlikely occurrence, but every so often we would talk about the what ifs, always hoping we would never need to know how to act and how to cope.
On February 12, 2016, the speculation and scattered talks – the unwished and unhoped – became a complicated and terrible reality. Thank goodness our “school shooting,” as we now join the unwanted association to which so many others belong, was not an active shooter. Instead, we were spared the random violence as a 15-year-old honors student shot her friend in the head for reasons that no one will understand. She then repeated the act and ended her own life. We sat in lockdown for hours. The media center director and I focused on keeping the 40 tardy students directed to the library off of the computers and away from the ignorant, vulturous media coverage that splattered the Internet. We tried to distract them and keep them off their phones. When another teacher called me and said one of the girls involved was the younger sister of a fellow teacher, a friend, I dismissed it and stayed in teacher mode. After the students were gone, and we heard the truth of what we were already piecing together, we sat in shock. That’s where I have to stop the specifics. I can’t write the next parts out just yet. For days, it was all so much worse. Then I was better. We were better. Not fully healed but progressing. Improving but changed. Forever different. Certainly, nothing will be as it was before. We all have that shared division line that unites us. We have the before and the after. We have what we didn’t want.”
What advice would you give the teenage you?
Don’t worry about what those people think. Due to societal rules and ridiculous posturing, boys who do think you’re pretty won’t tell you now, but there are a couple who think so. Figure out who you are and be happy with you. You are worthy. Love yourself a little. In a short while, 98% of these assholes will mean nothing. And just keep being funny. Write more and keep writing. Always keep writing.
If you could be any profession at all, what would it be?
How important is music in your life?
Music has helped to define many significant events in my life – some I wish I didn’t remember and some I cherish. I leave it sometimes and turn to other forms of entertainment, but I always return. It helps people bond and creates conversation. I have never known it to divide people. It can heal. It can provide hope. It can produce tears. Music is powerful.
Do you have a favorite animal?
Dogs are my favorite because I can keep them in my home, interact with them, observe them and love them up even when they struggle to get away from my clingy grip. If I could own a river otter and subject it to my desires, I certainly would. Sadly, that isn’t legal. Also, Phoenix doesn’t offer a welcoming climate.
Do you have a pet? What’s its name? How’d it get that name? Supply a picture.
Funny you should ask. Please see my favorite animal answer. I have three doggies right now – Sweet Pea, Luna, and Sophie. These three are all rescues. My daughter named Sweet Pea. When she was four, we were eating peas, which led to the name suggestion of Peasy. I modified that to Sweet Pea. Luna Lovegood, from Harry Potter, was the inspiration for Luna’s name. Since Sophie is an Italian Greyhound, my dad suggested an Italian name, and we thought she seemed like a Sophie.
Do you have a nickname? How’d you get it?
I have a number of nicknames. Yodel is a family name from long ago when I apparently used to yodel when my aunt played certain records. Throughout the years, various students have developed nicknames for me, all derived from my last name: Donski, Madonner, The Don. One of my best friends calls me Jodie Donnee, because educators in the state of Arizona have to get fingerprint clearance cards every six years to retain teaching certification and mine arrived one year with my name misspelled. It’s my alternate identity.
What is a question you would ask the next interviewee?
When are you the happiest and most content?
What was the first album, cd, download you owned?
The first cassette tape I bought was Michael Jackson’s Thriller at Pamida in Wheatland, Wyoming. The year should have been 1982 since that’s when the album came out; however, since we always had access to the latest of everything on a delayed schedule, it was probably in 1983 when I was age eight.
Do you think you could survive the zombie apocalypse? Why or why not?
I have given this much thought, and I don’t think I could. I wouldn’t want to. I don’t want to live in conditions of danger and uncertainty. Survival isn’t worth the sacrifices and the unknown. If my children were still alive, and I had to live to protect them, I would reconsider. If it’s just me, I am ending it.
Do you ever talk to inanimate objects?
I can’t tell you how many times I have spoken to this document. So, yes.
Do you love your job? Why?
I am getting pretty close to loving it. I don’t think anyone really LOVES his job. As people, we often don’t wish to expend that much energy and emotion toward an occupation; instead, we save that for recreation, family, hobbies. Sometimes people do, but that seems misguided and ultimately negatively impactful on an individual’s personal relations when it leads to making work a life’s focus. At any rate, my job is pretty satisfying due to the flexibility, the tasks I complete and the money I make. I do know that I perform better and would be closer to saying I do love my job if I had more positive feedback and recognition. I bet people who work in environments with that do love their jobs. Maybe loving a job is possible. I just bet those perfect work environments are rare.
What was the first concert you attended?
Johnny Cash. This seems pretty cool now, but the strongest memory I have from the event is eating Peanut M&Ms from my mom’s purse.
What is one thing you tell people right now to change the world for the better?
Do you collect anything?
Books, wireless mice and really cool office supplies, especially those that are lime green. Wait, these could be signs of obsession rather than a collection. I will bring this up with my counselor during our next session.
What do you think is the key to a healthy relationship?
Communication. Many of us know this, but we don’t make it a priority.
Are you afraid of dying? Why or why not?
No. I don’t choose to spend time concerning myself with experiences that are out of my control.
What do you think drives violence in this world?
What one song have you listened to more than any other?
“Aurora” by Foo Fighters
What is the most annoying necessary task you can have to do? Example, Shave legs, pump gas, etc.
I despise making lunch to take to work. I dread it and am joyous when I have a reprieve for any reason.
Why do you think people like the Kardashians stay in the media so much?
Can you look in the mirror and say you love yourself?
Yeah, no. Maybe if I would have told my teenage self to do that, I could do it by now.
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