Woodward, Okla. —
A new year brings new changes and new challenges, new opportunities and new beginnings.
I know it's a bit trite, but still true. Especially for me this coming year.
Because after 7 years, I will soon be starting a new job.
As of next week I will become a member of Woodward's outstanding school district and start work as a special education paraprofessional.
But, dear readers, this isn't really goodbye. But more of a 'see you around.' You will still see my byline in the paper from time to time as I will continue to write as a correspondent for The News.
While I have enjoyed my time at the paper, I am enthused about embarking on this new adventure and excited for all the new experiences I will soon encounter.
For me this career change is a proud moment because it means accomplishing a life goal I never thought I would.
Because a long time ago I told myself I couldn't.
You see when I was younger, I wanted to be a teacher. I came from a family of teachers, my grandparents on my mother's side had been teachers and my mother herself had been a teacher. I had an aunt who was a teacher and a cousin (one of the aunt's daughters) who was a teacher too.
I admired each of them for what they did in the lives of their students, just as I admired many of my own teachers who shaped me with their guidance and encouragement.
Because of my appreciation for them, I too wanted to join the noble ranks of educators. And in fact, my first job was in education.
I was 14 and finally old enough to get a part-time job. It was the summer and I was hired to be a teacher's aide for summer school at our local elementary.
I was placed with a group of 1st graders who were getting help to build the skills they would need to go onto 2nd grade.
My primary duties were to help take the students from class to class, remind them to follow the rules, and to help a child who might need additional assistance, especially if the teacher was busy helping other students.
While I did all those things and performed my job satisfactorily, by the end of the summer school session, I left with the notion that I would never be a good teacher.
Because one day, following reading class, I was reprimanded by the teacher for allowing a student to sit on my lap while I read a book to the whole class.
What that teacher told me would forever change me. I don't remember the exact words, but I remember that it had something to do with caring too much about making the students like me. I was there to help them learn, not to be their friend.
And after that moment I began to feel that I could never be a teacher and soon I just knew it. So I had to develop a new idea of what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I eventually settled on journalism.
It took me almost 15 years to realize, that while the teacher had a point to an extent, she wasn't completely right either.
She was right that my focus shouldn't be on caring about what the students thought of me.
Rather my focus should (and will) be on caring about the students.
Which means that I can be a teacher (or teacher's aide) and still be a friend. In the sense that a friend is one who gives assistance and supports another.
So now I am looking forward to working with the students and supporting them as they grow and learn.
Rowynn Ricks has been the assistant editor for The News. As she embarks on this new journey this new year, she wishes all of you the best of luck in your own journeys in the coming year.