EXPLORE - Middle school was a time for me to explore friendships. Some of these were honest and fun, while others were illusions of manipulation and mischief. In 7th grade, a guy I actually thought was my pal said that to keep his friendship, I would have to break up with my very first girlfriend...then and there. Over the phone. Let’s just say that since then, I have enjoyed building relationships that bring out the best and most genuine qualities in all. CREATE - I made models for history class, like a paper-mache Lascaux cave with mini-prehistoric paintings, and a Roman forum out of painted cereal boxes and clay. I entered my animated movies in youth film festivals and even won some awards. Friends and I wrote songs. Now, with my students or off the job, I still enjoy creative projects. They are help me understand what I am capable of, and stretch the boundaries a little further each time. ACHIEVE - In 6th grade, I wanted to be a straight A student. By springtime, after many late homework nights and enough tears to fill a soda can, I had done it. The year ended with my mom suggesting that I remember the curious kid I had been, before all the drama. It was surprising and pretty great advice. For the rest of middle school, I was happier -- more focused on learning than on my grades (not all As). As a young adult, I worked hard to achieve more dreams, making music for recordings and tours, even film scores for The Guggenheim art museum. But when my own children outgrew their baby clothes and appetites, again, I felt a pressing need to shift gears. At 40, I reconnected with that curious kid and learned all I could about an exciting new career, one with job security, where I would help people find their unique voices. Earning my masters and becoming a speech therapist are achievements of which I am especially proud, because I kept growing for myself, my family, and the students I serve.