The East Vision

Teachers before they were teachers: Their past lives

Q & A with Elle Bodnar, Michael Arthur, and Katherine Miller

Katherine Miller

Sydney Higgins, Staff Writer

Elle Bodnar, Counselor

What jobs did you do before? “Before I started working here I was working at Traverse City High School, I first started out at a special ed aide, and then became a counselor.

What fantasy job did you want to do before? “Singer. I wanted to be a singer and I still do. I love singing soul, funk, gospel, pop, I really just wanted to be on the radio. I wanted like that one hit, and I still do.”

What is the most daring or ambitious thing you’ve tried before? “ For sure trying out for American Idol in Chicago. That was right after high school, the summer after I graduated,  and that was the craziest thing I’ve ever been apart of, I waited 13 hours to audition and I was only able to sing 30 seconds of I Have Nothing by Whitney Houston. That was probably the most daring thing ever because really what are the chances, but a girl can dream. And of course auditioning for The Voice would be the next craziest thing I’ve done. It was my summer after my sophomore year in college. My friend and I drove from Kalamazoo to Chicago and it was at the Navy Pier. You get so nervous about what are they looking for? How different you look, and how you can stand out on television. Do they wanna know a crazy story of the diversity you’ve overcome? I didn’t have to wait as long to sing this time, it was much more organized. It’s taking a chance and seeing if you go anywhere. And more than anything it’s a good experience and something fun to talk about.

Why did you leave your previous job? “ It’s hard to feel defeated, as well as at some point when do you get a real job? When do you get married? Just those notions of how society has told you to be and those start to sink in, and you’re like okay, I’ve tried twice and I’ve attempted different way and different avenues and nothings happening. I also don’t think I put enough effort into it, I really should be doing more, getting time at studios, and reaching out to independent producers. I should have done more, I should have taken it more seriously. It’s more of a hobby right now than a job in the reality of it. I haven’t put in enough effort, but it’s still a dream and it’d still be fun to be on the radio.”

What’s one thing we don’t know about you that you did before you started working here? “My first job was Cold Stone Creamery and I wasn’t even old enough to work. I really wanted to work at Cold Stone because they sang, their whole motto is that somebody puts a tip in the tip jar and you sing them a song, so I really wanted the job because I figured I’d be singing and getting my voice out there. I ended up eating a lot of ice cream, I started to get sick of it.”

Michael Arthur, Physics teacher

What jobs did you do before? “I was a lawyer for a few years here in Grand Rapids. I started with a firm downtown. I worked in a lab and did computer programming and general lab work before I was a lawyer. That’s while I was in college.”

What is the most daring or ambitious thing you’ve tried before? “I had a summer job doing flight instruction. That was pretty cool, getting my pilot’s license. It’s actually pretty easy, it’s like learning to drive [a car], except the book work is a little more intense, and of course you have more road hours.”

Why did you leave your previous job? “Because it sucked. The question is, what do you want in a job? You have to be good at it. I was good at being a lawyer. You have to be able to make a living at it, and that was no problem. You have to enjoy the work enough to continue doing it. Nobody gets up in the morning and goes ‘Yeah Monday! Back to work!’ If you do then you have to work on your personal life. You have to feel like it’s valuable. Maybe you’re working at a job where you don’t feel as valuable but you need the money to support your family and that’s valuable. So, being a lawyer didn’t match with many of my values. I wanted a job that was more positive, more public service oriented, less adversarial, suited a different kind of lifestyle; the 80 hour weeks get old pretty fast.”

What’s one thing we don’t know about you that you did before you started working here? “I once handled a $75 million dollar check. It sounds like a big deal; there were like 10 or 12 people in the room. There were three or four people from my law firm, there were three or four people from a bank, two people from a power company, there was another group of lawyers. It was to issue a bond for a power company. I was the lowest of the employees in the room. I was above the person who brought the coffee, and below everyone else in terms of hierarchy and job positions. When you’re dealing with $1 thousand and you mess up, it’s bad, but it’s not catastrophic. At this level, you have to get it right…You’d think it was one of those big checks like on T.V. – no. Not only was it not a big check like that, it wasn’t even business size. It was like out of somebody’s personal checkbook, and the guy from the power company had a deposit slip that was the same as the deposit slip in the back of my checkbook. It was so anticlimactic. I thought, ‘Holy cow! People get excited about this? This is not for me.’”

“But the $75 million check isn’t that interesting, what else would people not know about me? I have eaten red squirrels. That’s more interesting.”

Katherine Miller, Psychology Teacher

What jobs did you do before? Before my position here at the high school, I taught 7th grade English at EGR Middle School. Prior to that, I taught high school at Grand River Preparatory High School where I taught 9th grade English, 10th grade English, and AP Psychology for three years.

What fantasy job did you want to do before? My fantasy job was to work as an editor for a bridal magazine. Growing up, I loved planning parties for my family and friends and loved English class too. Once I went to college though, my dream job shifted to that of a teacher and as soon as I took education classes combined with English and Psychology classes, I was sure that I was meant to teach.

What is the most daring or ambitious thing you’ve tried before? The most daring thing I can think that I did recently was to move to New York City to get my master’s degree at Columbia. Lucy Calkins is the director of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project and is famous in the teaching world. I had the opportunity to go to her week-long seminars for a few summers, but I craved more. As soon as I learned that there was a full-time master’s program in literacy where I would get to work directly with Lucy Calkins, I knew I had to go for it. At first, I just applied thinking there was not much of a chance that I would be accepted. My husband and I decided that if I did get in, I had to go as it would have been a once-in-a-lifetime type of experience. When I was accepted, I was simultaneously elated and a nervous wreck. I was elated because I knew that this experience would not come around again, but of course it was nerve-wracking and scary to leave everything behind and live alone in a big city.  Although I missed my family immensely while I was gone, I know I made the right decision and am really glad that I took that risk.

Why did you leave your previous job? I left my job at the middle school to obtain my master’s degree in NYC.

What’s one thing we don’t know about you that you did before you started working here? My husband and I took a three-week vacation to Europe! We started in Switzerland where I did something else totally daring and unlike me – I went paragliding over Lake Lucerne. It was probably the scariest thing ever running off of a mountain but once I did it, it was the highlight of the whole trip. We then went to Southern France and ended in Tuscany. It was truly a dream.

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Teachers before they were teachers: Their past lives