Thank you to Melissa Sadorf at ARSA for connecting us with this story. In addition to being an affiliate state of the National Rural Education Association, Melissa supports our Arizona Regional Hub headed up by the Arizona University Rural Resource Center.
Christina Musselman is a first grade teacher in rural Lake Havasu City, Arizona. We had the chance to meet Christina as part of our Policy Playbook project in Arizona, and are thankful for her willingness to share her story. Now in her 19th year of teaching, she feels truly connected to her community through the relationships she’s built over time.
Christina grew up in San Diego, and moving to a rural place when she was in high school presented quite a shock. However, she now believes that she was always meant to live and teach in a rural place. Part of that feeling came from having the opportunity to work in a preschool lab during her sophomore year of high school:
“That was where I found my niche. That's what connected me to this community and got me to where I didn't feel so alone - because I felt very alone, not having my friends there at that age. I stayed in that program through senior year.”
This experience led her to pursue a degree in education, and she saw some familiar faces along the way:
“I went off to college at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, and when I was nearing graduation, I chose to student teach in Lake Havasu. Working in Las Vegas is a big adjustment; the hours were crazy. It was great for a college student, but not for having a child and trying to student teach. I got assigned to a Oro Grande Elementary, and the first few days that I was there I ran into one of my preschool students and her mom. I just remember at that moment feeling connected because there were several of the students that I had had at the preschool there.”
Christina now teaches at Starline Elementary School, which serves 650 K-6 students. She enjoys the ongoing connection to students, even after they leave her classroom and grow into adulthood.
“I was hired [at Starline] on the 40th day of school. This boy Roger was in my class, and I built a relationship with him and his family. He needed extra support, and I gave that extra support, being the new teacher, not really necessarily knowing what I was doing exactly at the moment. Fast forward 13 years later, he's now my paraprofessional working in my classroom, working with students on reading, which was something that he needed support with. He has now been teaching for three years. That's our story, and this community’s story, just being connected to people. That's what I love about being a rural teacher.”
Read the full story, and other great rural teacher stories, on the I Am A Rural Teacher page!
We are grateful to Christina for sharing her story with us about her experience as a teacher in rural Arizona! If you would like to share 30 minutes of your time for an interview, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. The I Am A Rural Teacher campaign is a collaborative effort with the National Rural Education Association and made possible through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
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