Christina Webster, owner of Priceless Picnic, Dr. Megan Allen, owner of Community Classroom and Amanda Shafii owner of CopyCat, are all co-creaters of The Sphere, stand in front of a vacant store front they are working towards filling in Florence.

My “Former Life” as an Elementary School Teacher…

I was a Master’s graduate with a 4.0 GPA, but it wasn’t until I was fully immersed in public education that I realized the policies, procedures, and expectations were nothing like what I had learned in any of my courses. As someone who holds myself to very high standards, I spent years investing countless late nights while surrounded by endless work, and early mornings with just the custodian and me in the building. This all came to a head in 2020. 

I had worked in my district long enough to have earned tenure, the respect of my colleagues, thanks and praise from countless parents and a lot of love from students. I loved teaching, but I hated being a “teacher”. It was a hard decision but ultimately I knew I could find a way to do better than to sign on for a-whole-nother year of teaching at my own expense. My husband supported my decision to not return, and I am so thankful to have had him be the voice of reason that I needed to, for once, put myself first instead of feeling guilty about the idea of not  just “doing it for the kids”.

image box that says "did you know? 30-40% of teachers in the US leave due to burnout within the first five years on the job."

Learn more about teacher burnout from NPR here.

It was the best decision I could have made. 

When everyone was having anxiety and stress about the new school year, I was resting easy. Even as September approached, I had no plans for what was next, but I knew anything was better than turning back now.

christina tutoring student wearing spiderman mask with school assignment

Things happen in strange ways though… 

I saw a Facebook post from a former colleague I had become close with during my first year of teaching in Hadley. She taught 1st grade, and when the other first grade teacher went on maternity leave for her first baby, I had stepped in and taken over for her in her classroom. Cut to 2020, about 9 years later…that same teacher I had subbed for now had not just a third grader, but a 1st grader too! She needed help for the upcoming school year, and I honestly had nothing better to do, so why not? 

Those kids, and that family helped me find my purpose when I was feeling lost. Just because I had left being a “teacher” didn’t mean I had to let my talents go to waste and my passion for helping kids learn to fizzle. When COVID restrictions lifted, and the kids went back to school in Hatfield, I decided to go with them…Literally. I reached out to the principal at their school with my credentials and said I would be happy to help. Soon, I was back in a classroom as a teacher’s assistant. It was so much less responsibility and stress, but I knew it was only a temporary, COVID-created position.

So what would be next?

A reading specialist in Hatfield, who I met during this time, had told me about a tutoring business in Florence called The Community Classroom. I called to learn more and a few days later, I was having coffee with the owner, Megan Allen, in the hopes of pursuing private tutoring. She had just celebrated being in business for a year. Who knew two years later, it would have brought me to where I am today. 

The best of both worlds.

Not only do I still get to help amazing kids grow and learn as a private tutor, but it’s also allowed me the opportunity to pursue some of my other passions and interests. I was no longer feeling “stuck” in a hopeless situation. I was doing podcast interviews, publishing articles, networking and meeting people who, like me, had a passion that they couldn’t walk away from. I admired them for taking a chance on themselves and I wanted to help in any way I could. 

My part started with editing the Monday Moxy podcasts featuring Megan Allen and other local women entrepreneurs who had walked away from careers or had been forced out, only to find their true happiness in what would come next. I was inspired, and Megan had an idea to take it even further. 

And thus, The Sphere Northampton was born.

I began working as the project manager for a research initiative funded by a Mass Tech grant. We researched the main barriers experienced by women entrepreneurs in the greater Northampton area. Once we had collected our data, we revealed our findings and The Sphere was launched.

I now find myself on the Leadership Team for The Sphere and I work alongside amazing women entrepreneurs who are not only talented, but they are passionate.

 It feels a world away from “my former life as a public school teacher”. I am no longer using my organizational planning skills for lesson planning, well… not as much anyways. I am now using those skills for planning large networking and learning experiences for women and nonbinary entrepreneurs who are ready to make their mark in the business world.

Leaving my former teaching job has also given me the push to pursue event planning through my own business, Priceless Picnics & Event Consulting.

It’s all about making priceless memories… not just in the moment, but also in the way we choose to live our lives.

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