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  • Kristen Utley

What is a why?

Updated: Feb 14, 2022

As a teacher at Elevate Academy, I am often reminded to remember my “why.” You don’t know why? Well, you are in good company like most people I didn’t. A why is why you find joy in your service/job/life. It is not why you do it because that isn’t enough. You have to feel like it is your purpose or something that gives you as much support as you can give others. The light in your life brings meaning to the choices you make or the jobs you do.

So you might be asking what is my “why.” It is easier to give an example of my why than explain it, so here it goes.

Today I was walking out of the cafe with my lunch when I noticed one of my students picking at her soup when she should have been getting ready to go to class. I had a feeling like something wasn’t right, but I was leaving a meeting, and I had some work to get done. As I was justifying just walking back to my office and reminding her that lunch was about over, I thought, what if that was my daughter sitting there? What would I want her teacher to do? I had a distinct feeling that I could be a small comfort or support in this student’s day, so I came over and asked if we could eat together. I didn’t ask what was wrong or try to fix her; I just listened. We laughed and talked for about 10 minutes when she trusted me to tell me what was going on with her today. As with many students dealing with addiction or trauma, I can’t magically erase their struggles or fix their problems, and as usual, I couldn’t fix anything this girl was struggling with today. However, I could show her that safe people love her and are here to walk through her recovery with her. That is why I teach here or my “why,” as we like to call it. To show one student for ten minutes during a hard day that they have worth, support, and ability to succeed. This girl matters because she mattered to me. So, here at Heritage’s Elevate Academy, the education department works hand in hand with the therapy and residential departments to provide our students with a holistic approach to education. This teamwork repairs histories of mistrust with education, therapists, parents, or other professionals in the student’s life. When there is a foundation of safety and support, our students can focus on getting healthy and prepared for their future. Not only do we educate and strengthen our student’s academic abilities, but we also provide life-saving moments of listening and love every day.


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