An Introduction: Charity Preston, M.A.
As a gifted teacher for the public school system, I was proud of working with students and encouraging their high-abilities, yet I have always secretly wanted to do something on a grander scale and it pretty much killed me every day to drop my one-year-old off at the babysitter each day, and not being at home when my 13-year old came home from school.
On December 27th of 2010, with only a few days left of our winter break, I was getting a little anxious knowing I would have to return to work, but went about household chores as normal. My little one was taking an extra long nap, which I thought was odd, but after I had finished some vacuuming, I went in to wake him up for lunch and found him having a seizure. Never having direct experience with seizures, at the time, we did not know exactly what was going on, but he was not alert. It was, to date, the most terrifying experience I have ever been dealt, and I prayed I would never have to experience it again.
In the hours after the episode, we were informed that he suffered from a febrile seizure brought on by a temperature that spiked too quickly in a short period of time, and while they were scary, they were not a problem for the most part. He would not have any lasting effects, but there was a 50% chance of additional episodes within 1 year. If he did not have any more, the chances of reoccurrence went way down.
Of course, from the moment I found him so helpless, I knew I would not return to work in my classroom. I could barely sleep as it was after coming home from the Emergency Room – constantly watching the video monitor or rocking him in my arms – I certainly could not imagine him napping at my sitters’ home (even though she would have watched him like her own). So, I did what NO teacher with work does – I submitted my notice, effective immediately.
It was not a hard decision to stay home with my son. It was a hard decision to give up a professional career I had worked hard to achieve. I had a Masters degree plus twelve additional graduate hours, a gifted endorsement, and was active in several professional organizations with speaking and leadership roles. I loved being a professional working mom. It was a lifestyle change for sure!
About a month after staying home and wondering what I would do while my baby was sleeping twice a day since the original fear was starting to wane with every new seizure-free day, I became restless and wanted to share some ideas of things that worked for me in my classroom with other teachers. Thus, The Organized Classroom Blog was born at the end of January 2011! I also created a Facebook fan page, and started playing with Twitter, and other social media. I liked to include fun little videos tips in my blog posts, which not many were doing at the time.
Before I knew it, I was gaining fans and followers by the hundreds. I started to collaborate by guest blogging and participating in collaborative blogs, including Teaching Blog Addict. Suddenly other bloggers were emailing me about how I was gaining popularity so quickly and I realized that with all the time I was spending at home experimenting with lots of different types of social media and marketing tricks, I was finding what worked and what didn’t for teacher, crafting, and mommy bloggers. From that, the original Teaching Blog Traffic School was created.
I also noticed that teachers wanted a place to find all their favorite grade level specific blogs in one place, so I answered that call by starting Teaching Blog Central. Since then, I have also started several more collaborative blogs, including Classroom Freebies and Classroom Freebies Too in an effort to give back to teachers for all the work they do inside and outside of the classroom each day.
When looking at trends on Pinterest, I could see that teachers LOVED to repin all the super fun make it yourself type projects for their classrooms, so I then started another collaborative blog (with far fewer contributors) called Classroom DIY. It was a hit from the beginning!
After that, I also could tell from my own product sales, from the blog posts coming out, and from conversations with readers and fans that the new National Common Core Standards were really rolling out in schools and teachers were at a loss for how to implement them, never mind finding lessons that were correlated without having to do all the work themselves. So, I grabbed up the domain names Common Core Reading Lessons and Common Core Math Lessons in an effort to be able to consolidate all those ideas I was seeing everywhere into 2 simple clearinghouses to make it easy and accessible to teachers using the CCSS.
Of course, I have some fun sites that I like to maintain when I can – and everyone seems to enjoy them even when I don’t get to them as much as I would like: Classroom Desk Arrangements, School Bulletin Boards, and Themes for Classrooms.
Some of my newer projects are a little more interactive as a change of pace, and were super fun to get rolling: The OC on TV (a LIVE web show), The Organized Classroom Magazine (an interactive digital magazine with live links and video embedded), and Preston Education Publishing!
Why my content is so valuable to teachers like you?
I do feel strongly that there was a divine intervention that horrible December day to allow me to wake up each day and absolutely love what I do, and still be able to be a work-at-home-mommy with my toddler. It was a blessing in disguise and I am thrilled with being able to meet so many wonderful people from all over the world each day. There is no doubt that I am able to make that larger impact – I get emails daily from readers who tell me just that. I am even more thrilled that I was able work on ABC’s with my son in the process. Life is full of interesting events that can change so many things in the blink of an eye – literally.
People always ask whether I will return to the classroom. To be honest, I am not planning at this point (I am earning considerably more than what I ever made as a teacher, plus I hate to take work away from someone who could really use it), but I keep my licensure up-to-date just in case.
For now, I am just working day-to-day with a mind that never stops thinking of new ideas which I could never get to all unless I had an army of volunteers. I will continue doing what I am doing until it stops or is not fun anymore. Lucky for me, it has been a blast up to this point and I wake up every day with an eagerness to begin the day’s tasks.
You never know what might lie just over the next hill. It seems I always have something on the backburner. I hope to share my tips and tricks I have learned the hard way the last five years. You can benefit from a much shorter learning curve. That is definitely a win in my eyes!
I wish you all the same blessings that have been bestowed upon me!