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Opening Up to New Opportunities

Tyler Nathaniel Turner

Tyler Nathaniel Turner

May 14, 2024

Opening Up to New Opportunities

Hi there! My name is Tyler Nathaniel Turner, and I want to share a little bit of my background to start. It is currently a new year, 2024, and I have been teaching math for about 6 years now! This is my second year as a community coach with Open Up Resources. My journey to get to this position was quite the hike which began in my childhood. I was raised in a small suburban town outside Kansas City, Missouri. Today, I am a proudly queer individual, but it took me many years to feel completely safe where I grew up and how I was raised. Education has always been a safe place to take refuge from the struggles of everyday life. I am very grateful to my teachers, coaches, and professors who helped me get to this stage in my life. They led me to form my own teaching philosophy, in which I connect in a progressive manner with students. I prefer to use real-world experiences and prefer to be more of a guide in student learning. Today, I feel I am reaching one of many peaks where I am able to look back and appreciate the expedition of my life.

My Open Up journey was like climbing a mountain, and it began with teaching 7th grade math in August of 2018. I was a first year teacher in the small town I was raised in (Belton, Missouri). After my first year student teaching, I began creating my own summer school curriculum at Belton Middle School. After the summer, I was finally ready to begin my first year as a full-time teacher. At the start of that year, all of the educators were discussing this new curriculum that we would be implementing. The program was positioned as exploratory and good for student-driven learning—as opposed to the strategies many of us grew up learning. This made me feel incredibly excited, being fresh out of college and hearing of a curriculum that matched my teaching philosophy. In my first school district, we were unable to get the student workbooks and any other suggested materials, so I took it upon myself to make guided notes for every 7th grade lesson. I spent much of my first year developing the materials and getting more familiar with the curriculum. Personally, this curriculum encouraged me and pushed me out of my own comfort zone. In my classroom, I was met with the same mentality. I was constantly challenged to let students share their own thoughts instead of controlling their paths in the ways I thought best. This caused a huge mental shift that allowed me to let go and share the reins in my personal life as well. 

After the first year of struggling to use the curriculum, our team was not too keen on following everything by the book and started planning our own adjustments. At the same time, our district decided to invest in Open Up Resources Professional Learning. This was one of my first interactions with members of the Open Up team. One individual, in particular, was filled with the exuberance and exciting energy that felt unfamiliar to me at the time. Even five years later they still bring the same enthusiasm and charisma everywhere they go. Morgan Stipe was able to build strong connections over our two short training sessions. Seeing an educator with this passion and drive helped motivate me to continue excelling and reignited the fire I needed to dissect the curriculum without making changes. She helped this rigorous curriculum seem attainable and purposeful, which was exactly what our school team needed. Over the next two years, I began to understand how to implement the lessons more effectively and truly began to enjoy pushing myself out of my own comfort zone. For most of us, 2020 was an incredibly difficult time. Although it was a challenge to teach virtually, our math team was able to work together to teach our students and still give them opportunities to learn because of the strong bonds we built over Open Up Resources 6–8 Math. Many thanks to my first 7th grade dream team Erin Pettijohn and Jason Stuchlik.

Now, for the juicy stuff! My ascent through the Open Up mountain started at the end of my fourth year of teaching. Throughout that year, I struggled with work-home balance. I have always had a tendency to enjoy staying busy. While my mental health was struggling after the pandemic, I took this tendency to the extreme and started working five side jobs over the course of that year. During the summer of 2022, I decided to take my first break from grad school and enjoy a summer without teaching. This allowed me to focus on one of the jobs I found most fun. Working at a local Hilton gave me the opportunity to enjoy a mental break and move around while working events and meeting new people. I would generally only work weekend events but, on a whim, I agreed to do some morning work for my boss. While scrambling behind the scenes to prepare for the week’s large event, I stepped out to the ballroom and noticed a familiar bee logo following some seemingly familiar faces. The person I asked about the logo turned out to be none other than the exuberant and joyous friend, Morgan Stipe. The woman who had done my initial training and sparked joy and hope in my teaching three years prior. 

This event turned out to be HIVE Kansas City where, in between grabbing bagels and water refills for the rooms,  I was able to engage with a variety of educators from across the nation and celebrate the joy of teaching with like-minded adults. At this conference, I was reminded of just how passionate teachers should be about kids and helping them reach success in a manner that works because of a network of people helping each other grow. I made sure to inquire about opportunities with Open Up as I had just finished my Masters degree in Curriculum and Instruction a year prior. Some of my colleagues may have seen me as a light in this moment trying to shine my way up this mountain. However, I felt I was merely like snow reflecting all of the positivity and excitement this cohort of educators displayed. It was at this time that Brooke [Powers], Morgan [Stipe], and the Open Up Resources team decided to take a chance on me. They got my contact information and decided to fly me to their HIVE event in San Francisco, so that I could truly experience how amazing the event is as an attendee. We exchanged emails and, within a few weeks, I was flying out to San Francisco filled with pride and excitement at the opportunities “opening up” in my life! As soon as I arrived in San Francisco, I was offered a position as a community coach (which I applied for prior) and gratefully accepted. All this just before experiencing the most beneficial, engaging, and exciting professional development I had ever witnessed. I was opened to the intentionality of teaching and reminded of my brief introduction to this curriculum in the past. I will never forget or be able to truly express the appreciation I have for being given this opportunity to be part of this community. It is not always the easiest path, but the support we provide each other truly makes the climb up the mountain possible.

 I finally find myself at the present day, where we can see the summit and feel a goal within reach. I enjoyed my first year of making connections to propel my career and passion for teaching. While coaching my 1st year, I maintained working 5 jobs, and continued to allow toxic individuals in my life. My coaching team became a lifeline that helped me finish my fifth year as an educator. After working so much, the only joy I kept from teaching during that year came from my monthly coaching meetings and online interactions. In the same year, I decided to be honest with my community and family about authentically living my life as a queer individual. Giving myself space and learning to love my identity as an educator is what truly taught me to love myself outside that world. By the end of my fifth year of teaching, I had decided that I would be leaving education and trying to figure out my next steps. I left everything behind in Missouri and decided to start fresh in a new state. I surrounded myself with my chosen family and an accepting community that would love me for me. Right after my move to the East Coast, I still wanted to go to HIVE and be surrounded by my Open Up Community as my last hurrah in my educational journey. I still had a passion for education and a passion for helping kids become successful, but I allowed the burnout of five years to begin closing the door on my teaching career. But now, I could see the top of the mountain with a clear end in sight. 

I arrived in Atlanta HIVE 2023, fully embracing the joy and community that these conferences bring. This year instead of serving bagels, or sitting in an audience, I was standing in front of rooms filled with teachers sharing my experiences and the joy that this curriculum provided.  Reminded of the excitement and satisfaction that teaching brings, I began to turn a corner. When I finally reached the summit of my educational journey, I took in the beautiful views of my experience, remembered the laughter of the students I have been able to impact and truly embraced learning with a group of passionate teachers unlike any other. And it turns out,  I left this conference not at the pinnacle of my mountain, but with a new teaching job! One that has led me on a new path where I am reaching new heights, climbing more mountains, and enjoying every step of the way. I am finally living my life authentically, thanks to the support from the people here at Open Up Resources. I will forever be grateful that I was brought back into education and have made so many lifelong friendships. Friends who truly want what is best for me, all while seeing the passion I have for improving the experiences of students and teachers alike.

I hope everyone has an amazing 2024 and keeps climbing whatever mountains they may face, even when times get hard! The Open Up team and I are here to open you up to new opportunities! Thanks for listening!