"AHHHH, A-C-E, ACE!"
The volleyball players on the court shout and roar, the substitute players repeat with equal gusto, and finally the crowd in the stands echo the cheer one last time. Another perfect serve, another ace, another point for the St. Augustine Wolves!
As perhaps one of the least athletic members of my ACE 24 cohort (we are a particularly sporty group of young teachers), I never would’ve imagined that some of my favorite moments during my time as a high school English teacher in Tucson, Arizona, would involve our school gymnasium. I admire many of my fellow ACErs who coach sports teams to great success, but I never sought that role. I didn’t think that a school sports team would really factor into my teaching experience. However, having attended at least 85 percent of our home volleyball games during the past two seasons, I can confidently say that being a “volleyball aunt” has been one of my most rewarding roles. It turns out that you don't need athletic expertise or knowledge to enjoy sports. In fact, you can have a pretty awesome time just being a loyal fan. Even on days when I have mountains of grading to do and lesson plans to finish, I relish that time at the games. Sometimes all it takes is a volleyball game to reconnect with the personal relationships that bring me joy and color in the midst of the challenges that accompany first- and second-year teaching in a city far from home.
I cheer on current and former students, soaking up the joy of seeing these young ladies in their element on the court. I chat with school parents, bonding over the excitement of a particularly long rally. I laugh with coworkers, and those of us in the stands often make faces at our superstar volleyball coach, another of our wonderful coworkers.
Living in the old convent on the grounds of the high school where I teach is certainly an interesting experience, but one of its major perks is how easily I can convince my ACE housemates to join me at these volleyball games. This time and support forms the roots of any community. Even my housemate who teaches at a rival Tucson Catholic high school will cheer for the Wolves (as long as we are not playing his school), and he has developed a reputation as a stellar cheerer. Students began to stop me at school, saying, “Miss, are you going to bring your loud housemates to the game tonight? We need them to cheer for us.”
It’s amazing how many blessings intersect at any given home volleyball game: my students, my school families, my coworkers, my housemates. Certainly, I struggle and do not view these communities as blessings at times, but there’s something about a 23-21 set on a Tuesday night that makes my heart feel just a bit warmer than usual. I am grateful for these little opportunities that remind me what all the planning, grading, reflection, and meetings that make up this ACE experience are all about: the people. For me, ACE means being able to learn from and with so many wonderful people every day, and I am often reminded of this during an exceptionally good volleyball ace.
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