When President Gordon B. Hinckley passed away this year, I thought of the many things I would remember him for, and foremost in my mind was the Perpetual Education Fund. When President Hinckley announced the creation of the fund during General Conference in 2001, I was thrilled to learn that we, as members of the Church, could help each other get an education that, for some, would otherwise be unavailable. President Hinckley was giving us an great opportunity to show charity to one another, and also reminding us that everyone deserves an education and the means to get one. It was  a subtle reminder to me of how blessed and grateful I was for my educational opportunities and how I could help bless others. Now, as I prepare for this year’s teaching interviews, I think of the many lessons I learned from President Hinckley’s inspiration as I discovered how this miraculous fund could bless me.

I received my graduate degree last summer and joined my colleagues in the search for a teaching job, a process which became more discouraging than I had previously realized. I panicked a bit as the summer drew to a close without any offers. My supervisor and fellow teachers did their best to reassure and encourage me: “Don’t worry, this district is still looking.” “Don’t worry, some schools still hire after the second week of school.” “Don’t worry, they hire within the district first.” However, even they became frustrated and utterly baffled as the beginning of the school year arrived and I had no job. Admittedly, this was one of the hardest and most frustrating situations I had to deal with. I had wanted to teach for so long and was finally able to do so, yet nobody would let me. I did not know what I was doing wrong. I had all the traits that administrators look for in a teacher. I did everything my supervisor and practice interviewers told me to do. Some principals even commented on how well I did in my interview, but then the job would go to someone else. Ten rejections later, I was not feeling up to snuff, as my alma mater’s song states. The newspapers’ headlines about teacher shortages did not help me any, either. I was here! Why weren’t schools finding me?

My usual enthusiasm and optimism were affected by this situation. I was dismayed to find that I was afraid to think about, let alone research, lesson plans. For all of you who suspect that your teachers dream of the worst ways of tormenting you, you are absolutely right. Only we teachers call it how to make learning FUN!! I fell asleep thinking of lessons and lectures that I could give my students (go ahead and laugh now at how appropriate it is that the words “asleep” and “lectures” are in the same sentence). I loved teaching. I dreamed of teaching. Now I was, as Shakespeare said, “in what I most enjoy contented least.” Thinking about teaching saddened me so I avoided it. The first day of school was surprisingly hard for me. I did share my children’s joy, but I admit I got choked up passing through the hallways in their school because I realized this was not yet my environment. I was surprised to find how much it meant to me. I was also horrified to discover the bitterness I felt toward fellow teachers. These were my colleagues who loved this profession as much as I did and who had worked just as hard to be there. I had never felt bitter toward anyone who had attained their dream, who had received the blessings they fully deserved. Especially someone who shared my love of teaching. This realization shocked me, and I knew I had to do something to remedy it. I tried to ignore my desire to teach for a while, keeping busy with anything else. Though this worked somewhat, I knew it was not the right way. I knew I was afraid to face my dream because then I would have to admit that I had not yet fully attained it.

Then one Sunday in church, I was filling out a tithing slip for some money I had earned while working with my dad. There on the slip was a line for the Perpetual Education Fund. Naturally, my first thought had been to pay tithing, but I had forgotten that having money meant I could also donate to this great fund. I was thrilled. I had prayed to teach. I had continuously asked for the Lord’s guidance, and as I looked at that slip, I knew that here was an unexpected answer to my prayer. The Lord knew how to show me that my dream was still alive and well and my state of denial had to end. I may not have been teaching in my own classroom, but I could still teach others the joy and benefits of learning. It was part of my teaching philosophy. I had never stopped rejoicing about the fact that I had been able to get my degree and experience all the joys and challenges (such as discovering there is a 4:30 in the morning) that come with education. I knew how privileged I was, and I knew I had to stand by my philosophy. Donating to the Perpetual Education Fund made me happier than I had been since graduating. My optimism returned, and I had the desire to get to work and prepare for my students. 

I needed the Perpetual Education Fund. Through it I forgot my own problems and thought of blessing the lives of other students. Only then did I realize how greatly and unexpectedly this fund blesses those who give to it as well as those who use it. President Hinckley was inspired to create this fund. I knew he realized the great and various blessings it could give to members around the world. How grateful I am for the inspiration of a prophet for leaving such a blessed legacy to his fellow saints.
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