Friday, September 25, 2015

My New Sight: Mikaela

Mikaela Prego is a May 2015 graduate of the University of Notre Dame who is currently serving with ACE in Denver, Colorado. So far, she has had 4 full days of teaching school and describes herself as "slightly sane and fully crazy at the moment". She loves the mountains of Colorado and already has been to the top of Mt. Evans! 

What inspired you to serve?
This is a hard one to answer. I am not completely sure what convinced me to apply to my program and then accept it. I just kept finding myself being drawn to ACE and I just couldn’t say no, everything fit together so well. The desire to serve though was planted in me in high school. My school’s motto was “servium,” or “I will serve.” I felt like I did not give enough time to service during college and a guilt sort of built up and hung around me all through junior and senior year. I wanted to refocus myself. It was actually a youtube video of Stephen Colbert’s commencement speech at Northwestern University that reminded me how important it is to always be serving those around you and so I acted on that feeling.

Mikaela (bottom) and the Denver ACE community
What continues to inspire you, now that you've started?
My community, all the people in my program, all of the people who did this before me and all first year teachers inspire me every day. It is incredible what teachers do and that they are able to do it well. I am constantly inspired by the passion I see in my community, in my school and those who are invested in education. How can I not want to be a part of something that is working so hard to give children everything they need to succeed?

Of course my students inspire me daily. I want to help them. I can see how much they know that they don’t even realize and I would love to be someone to help them realize how much they actually know, and how much they are teaching me. They are truly incredible, even on days when they talk all through the hallways or forget how exactly to sit in their chairs or that glue sticks should not be glued to the desk. They are pretty cool humans.
Denver ACE Community after a hike to the top of Torreys Peak
What is it like living in community with other volunteers?
Right now living in community is the greatest thing I could have in my life. That sounds dramatic, but I look forward to coming home to a house full of friends and passionate people. There have been a couple days that I have been the first home after school and my heart drops. I just love coming home and being able to talk about the day. Of course there are challenges, but I have been so lucky to be placed with incredible people who share a wonderful and quirky sense of humor and share such a joy for serving, even on days when it brings you to tears. I think community is my saving grace as a first year teacher.

Has "simple living" been a struggle so far?
Yes. There have been some negative bank statements and cereal is now a staple of my diet, but to be honest I think the hardest thing for me is to define what simple living really means to me. I think the hardest thing is discovering what living simply means and how that is related to what keeps you mentally sane. Does living simply mean that we should limit how much we eat out together, or how much we drive to explore the city, or how often we take ice cream trips? What is necessary to live simply and what is necessary to keep myself mentally healthy? I find myself asking this question a great deal.

Any short stories about your work that you'd like to share?
Every day is definitely an adventure, so I’d say that my work offers a great deal of stories. One in particular stands out to me. In 4th grade we have "read aloud" every day after lunch. For the past two weeks we had been reading “Sideways Stories from Wayside School,” by Louis Sachar. It’s a fantastic book, one that I have not read since I was in fourth grade. But we were reading a chapter about Joe who has trouble counting and his teacher, Ms. Jewls, who tries to help him. When five objects are placed in front of him Joe will count “1, 4, 6, 3, 5.” Ms. Jewls struggles a great deal trying to explain to him that although he arrives at the correct number the way he is counting is not correct. For some reason this made my students crack up. They all started laughing all at once and so I started laughing and there was just so much joy. Just thinking about Joe counting makes me crack a smile. I am so looking forward to more surprisingly joyful moments as we continue through this year together! 

To learn more about serving with ACE, click here