This fall, I was lucky enough to grace the cover of the College of Western Idaho’s Career Focus Magazine. The photo was taken during my fourth summit of Denali, and my fifth trip to the mountain. I have been mountain guiding for 14 years, and we could not have been luckier on this day. My clients and I touched the top with just enough time to get down before high winds began to ravage the mountain.
It was a 17-hour summit day, and by the time we were back at high camp, I was exhausted and questioning my own career choices. I am one of those people who have been lucky enough to experience the “American Dream.” I am one of the select few whose work is also play. I was never happy at standard 9-5 jobs that I could leave behind at night, and go home.
Yet, to argue that I have been intentional with my career choices would have to be a little bit of a fib. I went to college to get involved in social service programs. As early as 1994, I was working as a developmental therapist and wondering why I was always broke. In truth, I ended up in adventure education because it is also amazingly fun and rewarding, but also because it met a financial need. Yet, I have always wondered why work that is so essential such as development therapy or psychosocial rehabilitation pays so poorly.
Now, I am lucky to be teaching at the College of Western Idaho in a capacity that trains future teachers to work with our children. I love it! Our company, Experiential Adventures LLC , focuses on improving leadership and communication within businesses and higher education organizations without losing our adventurous roots. It is true; Geoff and I truly understand how hard work can lead to success.
I wonder, again, why are primary teachers so misused and disrespected in the state of Idaho? Teachers are the backbone of our childrens’ learning and social experiences beyond the family. They are an essential link in the process of creating a civil society, and primary and secondary education programs drive our future economic value. It cannot be stated enough that future economic value and the development of a hardworking society that values acceptance is what teachers provide to the next generation.
Accepting the value of social programs as an investment in the future seems to be a challenge for some. We are, at times, taught that individual success trumps societal value. Teachers struggle to teach children about the gray area that exists between the absolutes that news channels, commentators, and pundits propagate. However, individual success is predicated upon our society’s success and vice-versa.
So as I focus in on my career, I have realized several things – mountain guiding is a risky endeavor that is an amazing experience and requires the ability to make essential decisions to protect those in your immediate care, but at high altitudes those in your care and already financially stable and successful. Therefore it does NOT change lives on a daily basis. On the other hand, the only absolute about teaching is that every child is changed and molded by teachers everyday. For that gift alone, teachers should be recognized for all that they do. Teaching should be a revered profession, not one that is constantly under attack for being anything but what it is – the key to our children’s future.