Here's a gal that I only met 2 years ago. I originally sang with her sweet husband, Aaron in the acapella group I've told you all about. Aaron was getting married and I told him I was also a photographer. One day, I get a text from him. "Yo Dude, Wanna do ma' wedding shiz?" It was game on. I would eventually meet the lucky lady who would be walking down the aisle with Mr. Aaron. Courtney had the most vibrant head of CURLY red hair to match her spunky, upbeat personality. Courtney was interested in costumes from the renaissance period and was incredibly articulate. She had crazy food restrictions and a deep love of tacos. She loved her cats and old poetry. Most of all though, she was kind and loved Aaron in the way dreams are made. I would later come to learn that she was also incredibly compassionate, was an advocate for the underdog and was fueled by love for her fellow woman and man. She told me that although she loved being an actress, she was a high school English teacher. In a crazy turn of events, I found out that not only was she an English teacher and MY high school, her classroom was also next door to my other favorite redheaded teacher-Pauline Grimshaw. (Which, if you are joining the blog reading bandwagon now, go back a few days and read my tribute and entry to my favorite high school History teacher). My noggin was blown once again at just how small the world was. Boom.
Now, I don't know if you've ever photographed a wedding but you are essentially glued to the bride and groom the entire day. So, it's really important that you like them since it's LITERALLY the entire day. In the midst of the craziness, Courtney was concerned about everyone else's well being other than herself. Her selflessness was a trait that spoke volumes despite the fact that the day was completely about her and Aaron. That trait carries over into her every day life and in how she handles her students. When I asked to sit in on her class, I was inspired and just how passionate she was with her class. When she wasn't teaching, she would still have kids come into her class just to pass the time and to feel what was clearly a sense of welcoming. She made everyone feel special. She made everyone feel wanted, feel loved and feel important. As a teen, you need that. You need someone make you feel valued. It was no surprise that this was an environment where young people can thrive. I feel good knowing she is creating a future of beautiful queens and kings. Thank you for all you do, Miss. Courtney. You are royalty.
PS. As an English teacher- please forgive any grammatical or spelling errors, Court. This my 27th entry and I am trying not to go crazy. 🤪
What is your name and how do we know each other?
"Courtney Duncan-Schwartz-You sang with my husband and you photographed my wedding!"
How old are you?
What are you currently doing with yourself?
"I am teaching high school English and I make historical costumes in my spare time."
Are you where you hoped you would be? If not/ Why? If so-what do you love about it and could you see yourself doing anything else?
"That’s a question. I’m not where I hoped to be but I never would have imagined in a million years that I would be so lucky ending up where I am. I love what I do every day. Even the bad days are worth it. If I was gonna do anything else it would probably be acting or costuming, but when I was doing that I never felt as fulfilled."
Women are becoming a resilient sound that cannot be silenced. What are you doing to contribute that sound?
"I think the first thing I’m doing is learning to not shut up. I always question what I say and so learning to not do that has been a really big shift in my life. The second thing I would say is having open communication with all of my students. If they a question, I’ll answer it to be best of my ability. We often discuss a lot of women in literature and art who were silenced and the reason behind their silence and how that silence is being carried on into today-especially in under-represented communities. Because I work at a predominately white school, I do try to remind my students of their privilege and that privilege is not a bad word but it is a duty to speak out and up for those who are being oppressed by our current structure. "
What is something you learned from a younger age that has stuck with you?
"I would say resiliency. I was knocked down a lot but always got back up because I wanted to, not because I had to."
Who is an individual who made a profound impact on you and why?
"The first person that came to my head was Queen Elizabeth the 1st...because she’s a crazy a bitch. I love a woman that is unapologetically herself and for her time period she knew how to be the voice of a nation while also appealing to the general male population-as a leader. She was just a bad ass. Anyone who appears on a white horse in a bunch of armor in front of a bunch of men is a bad ass. On a nicer note...definitely Aaron. My husband. Because he nevers allows me to apologize for just existing. "
What is a weakness or something that exposes your vulnerability and what do you do to combat/embrace it in order to grow?
"I have G.A.D. -generalized anxiety disorder. Which basically just means when I question myself in a social situation, I automatically assume that I’m wrong and that I have no way of fixing the situation. When I was younger, this caused me to shut down and not communicate...assuming that what I would say would be wrong. Now I do active reminders so when I am in those situations I allow myself to ask questions rather than make statements and through those answers, gain clarity. I allow my students to play the why game with me where they can ask me why during any point in a lesson. If I don’t have the answer, we figure it out together or we don't do it at all because everything we do should have purpose. I remind myself that I am not a final draft, not a first draft and it’s okay to make mistakes on the first draft. "
What is something that you want to accomplish and what are you doing to get to that place, if anything?
"I want to study law someday. I’d probably still teach. I really am interested in studying law to help students and families that are often ignored by school districts and are therefore under served and not given the privileges that every public school student deserves. "
And now..a few questions to lighten the mood...
Dogs or Cats?
"Cats but I love all animals."
Cheeseburgers or Salad?
"Can I do protein wrapped cheeseburger?"
Beach or Mountains?
Sweet or Salty?
Lose all of your old memories or never make new ones?
"What a horrible question..I guess lose all my old."
Disney..or is there any alternative?
What is a fun fact that someone may not know about you?
"My family is Creole and I can cook a mean gumbo and fried chicken because of my grandfather despite the fact that I am allergic to any wheat product. "
And the final two important questions...
What is a common misconception about you that people make based on your appearance? What is your truth and how do you personify strength?
"Based on my appearance, people assume that I don’t know a lot because I look young and because of the way I behave they assume I’m always very happy. My truth is that everyday I have to fight to be happy because of the GAD...it leads to depression. I recently found out a lot of the symptoms and behaviors I experience is because I am on the spectrum of autism. Owning that has been very difficult for me as a 28-year-old who just thought I was weird and something was never 'right'. But now, I can look at it differently. I am able to own that I just see the world differently than a lot of other people and that doesn’t make me weird or wrong. I'm learning that I’m actually an asset because through figuring this out, I can now apply my empathy to so many more situations while also claiming my uniqueness rather than hiding from it. "
You have inspired me. What about yourself do you hope to put out in order to inspire other young people?
"Teaching allows me to that. How do I do it? Definitely teaching. I constantly ask my students questions about myself or the world. I have students who have graduated and will message or email and let know to update me about their lives. It’s amazing how strong they are even when they don’t see that strength and to be that person who gets to remind them of that strength is truly a gift I never in a million years I ever thought I would have the privilege of having. So..I hope I can keep reminding them."