How Do You Find Your Voice?
The Journey To Find My Voice
By: Heidi Trude, French Teacher at Skyline High School in Front Royal , VA and FLAVA Teacher of the Year, SCOLT Teacher of the Year
When I was a student at Liberty High School in Bealeton, Virginia, I was a very quiet and reserved student. I excelled in my classes, but only spoke in classes when I needed to. I was afraid that what I would I say would be wrong and not valued by my classmates. This fear of speaking continued all through high school, but I knew that deep down inside of me, there was a voice that needed some nurturing.
In the fall of 2003, I entered Sweet Briar College, a small private liberal arts college for women, located near Lynchburg, Virginia. At Sweet Briar, my professors started to nurture my voice. By the end of my first year, I was not only starting to speak up in my classes, but I was also taking on leadership roles within clubs. My voice was starting to grow and little by little, I was developing more self-confidence. My French and History professors continued to challenge and push me through my remaining time at Sweet Briar. Who would have thought that the shy and quiet student who entered Sweet Briar back in 2003 was now the president of several clubs, serving as the French and History department tutor, and working as an Admissions tour guide? It was because of the constant support of my professors that I was able to blossom and come out of my shell. At Sweet Briar, I truly found myself and my voice. I was encouraged to share my thoughts and opinions. At Sweet Briar, I had the chance to think about who I was as an individual and who I wanted to become. Having that supportive environment not only helped me to find my voice, but also to develop as a leader. While my voice was not completely developed at that point, I at least had a start and knew who I could become.
As I started teaching at Skyline High School in Front Royal, VA in 2008, I continued to focus on finding my voice and developing as a teacher. When you start out teaching, it is overwhelming and even scary at times. There were days when I would revert back to that shy and quiet person that I once was. However, I realized that in order to make a difference in my classroom, my community, and in the field of education, I needed to continue to develop my voice. It was then that I got the courage to start presenting at conferences and telling my story.
The first time I presented at FLAVA, I was so nervous. The morning of my presentation, the sound on my computer decided to malfunction and that caused my nerves to increase even more. I then wondered if anyone would even attend my session. To my surprise, the room was packed. Other teachers actually wanted to hear what I had to say. There was a brief moment where I thought I was dreaming and wanted to run, but then I realized that my voice is important and these teachers were here because they wanted to learn about global connections. I survived the presentation and realized that my voice could be used to inspire others. From that moment on, I realized that I needed to keep sharing my voice.
Things took a dramatic change on September 13, 2016, when I learned that I was named the 2017 Virginia Region IV Teacher of the Year. This was a huge honor in and of itself and with the honor came the opportunity to speak at conferences throughout the state, as well as with Virginia legislators. I could no longer be the reserved young lady that I used to be, instead I was now a strong and confident young woman with a message to share. My voice was being used to advocate for teachers across Virginia, as well as being used to inspire teachers across the state. I now realized that my voice was powerful – I could inspire others, advocate for educational policies, and could help teachers and students to find their voice.
The last two years have been such a blessing for me being both the Virginia Region IV Teacher of the Year and the FLAVA Foreign Language Teacher of Year. I have had the chance to share my voice and story with so many educators, and also be inspired by their stories. The small voice that was deep within me had finally blossomed into a vibrant flower. Finding my voice was indeed a journey, but it was a journey that I do not regret.
In the film, The Dead Poets Society, Mr. Keating (Robin Williams) states, “Strive to find your own voice. Because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all”. Today I challenge each of you to find your voice and to encourage your students to find their voice. If we do not use our voices to tell our stories, advocate, or inspire others, who will? Your voice and your students’ voices are powerful and deserve to be heard.