Working at Home: Returning to my High School Alma Mater

A year ago, I never expected, as a double business major, to be working in education. One of my favorite quotes from Michael Chabon perfectly sums this up; it reads, ‘Man makes plans… and God laughs.” Nothing is further from the truth for me as in this past year, I have become a father to a beautiful little girl, moved back to my hometown, accepted a position as the College Advising Corps adviser at my old high school, Hayesville High, and lived through a nearly yearlong global pandemic. I can’t help but laugh thinking if I could only go back and tell my former self about all that would occur in this next year, he would never believe me. 

For anyone who didn’t grow up in a small town school system, it may not make total sense when I refer to my fellow faculty at Hayesville High as “family” but that’s what they are to me. The Hayesville School System houses elementary to high school on one property, meaning I spent thirteen years of my life moving around this campus. Many of my former teachers still teach here, as I only graduated a short four years ago. It has been a blessing to be able to come back to Hayesville and be welcomed instantly by my fellow faculty and staff. I had thought that it would be a tough transition moving from former student to faculty member, but I realized early on the toughest piece for me was learning to call my old teachers by their first names vs their “teacher” names. 

Having these pre-established relationships has given me the ability to expedite the effectiveness of my work. My site facilitator has been a close family friend for many years, and this familiarity has allowed me to feel comfortable bringing ideas to her and to brainstorm with her without feeling like I need to filter my thoughts first. My principal used to be my coach for many years and through that, I’m able to have a relationship with him in which  we can discuss realistic goals for our senior’s post-secondary plans and figure out new ways to tackle educational problems in a global pandemic. One of the best ways, in my opinion, with which this familiarity has helped me is  building a relationship with my seniors.

The current seniors were rising 9th graders when I graduated in 2016, I knew some of them personally through my years running cross country and track at Hayesville, and others know my younger brother who is currently a junior here. This has helped establish rapport with the senior class, even with many of them being remote learners. A big aspect of being effective at my job is being able to establish trust with the students. Trust allows my students to share their actual goals and gives me the ability to help guide them towards that. One of my personal goals when accepting this job was that five years from now, my current senior class wouldn’t be waking up and feeling as if they have wasted the past four years of their lives, pursuing a job they don’t enjoy. I want to help them take their first steps into leading exciting and fulfilled lives. 

In the context of helping students lead exciting and fulfilling lives, I don’t think our teachers ever get enough credit in the amount of time and dedication they put into creating a school year for students. As a student I got here as close to 8 am as I could without being late, went to my four block classes that day, listened to all of my teachers, ate lunch, and went home exactly at 3 pm five days a week. As a faculty member here, I’ve been getting here early and leaving later than the students, just like the teachers. I’ve gotten to see all the work they do during teacher work days and in the weeks before the first day of school. There have been countless meetings and workshops the teachers hold to help try and be as effective as possible for the students. Things I'm sure many of our students aren't even aware of, just like I wasn't. All of this has occurred during an unprecedented school year, where our teachers and staff have been asked to figure out new ways to engage with students. They have worked tirelessly under added stress and given me a new perspective and appreciation for all of the teachers in my life. They have spent the time getting my students to the point where they are today and I am just here trying to guide them after the finish line.

I still have lots of time and work left to do here at Hayesville High. I’m still scrambling to make sure I am assisting every one of my seniors, but every interaction is rewarding. There is a deep sense of gratitude for me being able to return to the place that helped me become who I am today and be able to give back. I know for a fact that a year ago, I  never expected to have a desk in his old high school library, but the me of today is so thankful for the opportunity and the tremendous amount of support I’ve received in the short amount of time I’ve been back. I can’t wait to see where the rest of this year will take me and the Hayesville High School class of 2021.

*Written by adviser Adam Urbaniuk

Published: Nov 11, 2020 2:24pm