Hey, I'm Natasha

Being the youngest in my family to have a child, I immediately felt like an outcast. I became a single mother my junior year of high school. Determined not to be a statistic, I devoted myself to my studies and my job. My teachers noticed how hard I was working and they encouraged me every chance they could (one even paid for and delivered my college applications). I graduated high school with a full scholarship to the University of my choice. I knew the road ahead was not going to be easy, so I settled in my hometown and attended a community college. Knowing that only 2% of teen mothers actually graduate college, I worked two jobs and attended school at night. Leaning on my support system, I often times left my daughter feeling neglected. Without having the proper tools to express how she felt she began to display, what her teachers described “abnormal behaviors” in school. At 13 months she was released from her first daycare and a few more after that, which resulted in me losing full time job and scholarship.

As the years progressed her challenges at school grew immensely and we were staring down the face of the label, “Oppositional Defiance Disorder.” I began to take a step back and look at what I was doing as a parent. Where did I go wrong? How was I going to make it right? Is it too late? I’m a horrible mother! I was convinced that I was failing as a mother. Were there other people experiencing the same difficulties? Similar to my daughter, felt alone and lacked the tools to express that vulnerability, so I suppressed the emotions and just kept surviving but I was miserable. After receiving my AA, I moved to Tampa to seek my Bachelor's degree in Early Childhood Education at the University of South Florida. Child Growth and Learning was the course that really resonated with me. 

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This course introduced me to child development from an educational and psychological perspective. I was learning to be the best teacher I could be to other children, while my daughters teachers were giving up on her, and I did not have the knowledge to advocate for her appropriately. We were allowing her to feel as if she was "a bad girl," and moving her from school to school as if that were the solution. The realization that my baby was not fighting against me but rather fighting for me, changed our relationship. I began to see my challenges as a single mother, as opportunities. 

The harsh reality is that not all teachers treat their students with equality, leaving many of our children feeling hopeless in a setting that is supposed to highlight their differences. A reality that motivated me to be for my students and families what myself and my daughter needed. It was imperative for me to create an environment in my classroom that allowed my students and their families to feel welcomed, loved, and free to express themselves. We worked collaboratively on the academic and social emotional goals they wanted to achieve. We implemented skills and strategies that would produce those results whether at home or at school. There was an indescribable love and connection that I formed with my families, many of which I have kept til this day. It is that feeling that wakes me up every morning and inspires me to continue providing knowledge and spreading awareness to all asking for my support. 

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