I am in the 12th year of a five-year self-commitment to teach something that I love. Television. Or, more specifically, video production. TV is a funny business to begin with and how I came to teaching really reads like a series of missteps, poor decisions and bad luck that, somehow, worked out for the best.
I started becoming interested in video production right after high school. My family had moved from Illinois to Maryland the summer I graduated. I was accepted to three universities in Illinois and Indiana for a variety of majors ranging from pre-med to theater (What the hell was I thinking?). But since my entire support structure was moving to the east coast, I declined the invitations and went east with my family. After a couple of months of sitting around and spending my parent’s money, my dad gave me the ultimate ultimatum. “Get a job or go to college.” The next day I was standing in the admissions office of Salisbury University.
I had to chose a major so I grabbed a brochure off the rack and thought, “Hmm…Mass Communication sounds cool. I’ll do that.” And from that moment the missteps and poor decisions started to roll. Don’t get me wrong. I love working in TV and would go back in a heartbeat but my career could have been so much more than it was. I followed the job trail like some sort of TV migrant worker looking for the next big break that would allow me to afford a new car, pad my resume with great accomplishments or offer new scenery to explore. Never once did it occur to me that staying in one place offers something that I never had. Security.
Sometime after I hit the trail I met a girl and fell in love and so the story goes. So then it was the two of us but I was still making decisions based on what I felt was right for me. Oops. Four TV stations later in three different states I decided to pursue higher education and get a master’s degree and start on a Ph.D. Oops. It’s amazing how quickly the money runs out when you’re waiting tables and you’re a really crappy waiter. Left school mid-semester. No money, no job, no advanced degree.
But did I panic? Nope, not me. I picked another dream out of my head and decided to follow it. This time dragging a wife and baby daughter with me. At the age of 33 I decided to join the Navy and fill my personal desire to serve this great country of ours. I became a Navy Hospital Corpsman and ended up getting posted with the Marine Corps. I loved the Navy and always felt that it was an honor to serve with the Marines. But I was too old to start that sort of life. I was a great Corpsman but I wasn’t such a great sailor. If you’ve ever served, you know just what I mean. And then I got hurt in training, released on a medical discharge and put on the street with just enough money to last three months.
I ended up selling TVs in Circuit City. Until one day when a customer came into the store and said that he would trade me jobs any day. I asked what he did and he told me that he taught TV production classes at a local high school. I told him that I would be interested in a job like that and he wrote down a name and said, “Call this guy tomorrow afternoon because I’m quitting tomorrow morning.” I called the guy, he said, “See me at 4:00 PM.” I did and he hired me on the spot.
I told myself that after five years of a stable job, I would look for one last TV Production position. That was 12 years ago. Turns out that I kind of like teaching. Money’s not great but it’s stable and the family has insurance and all the things that make life a little easier. So thousands of commercials and newscasts and promos and news packages later, I’m a teacher.