"After graduation, I lived in a few different countries and didn't have a ton of direction. I kept wondering, "what am I good at? What is my purpose in life?" I found myself being accepted to NYU grad school, studying education after I had a few trials as an educator during my travels. I learned that everything I wanted to do in life was rooted in serving others. The most empowering thing you can do for someone else is help them learn. I love showing someone that if you work hard enough, you can achieve your dreams and get to where you want to be in life.
There's a lot of challenges in this line of work. It's surprisingly emotional. I work at a Title 1 school with low-income students. I teach 5th, 6th and 7th grade science and I'm an advocate for a select group of students. I work with their families, do daily check ins and develop mindfulness practices together. Having this touchstone, especially right now, has given me a great sense of normalcy. It's about helping my students grow while giving them hope. This is a very hopeful generation. Kids see such a bright future for themselves. If I didn't have this in my life, it would be a lot darker for me too. It's about helping each other—it's always a two way street.
Being part of a school like mine gets you involved in conversations around topics that actually matter. We educate, but we do impact work as well. Our goal is also to help make students' lives easier, regardless of their situation, where they come from and their background. Everyone is equal and we make sure they feel safe at school with us. This type of work is what I've realized I always wanted to be a part of as it makes me feel like I'm truly contributing to society in a way that matters most.
My grandmother used to say, "Make yourself necessary to somebody. Do not make life hard for any." This became a value statement that has woven its way throughout my whole life. And ultimately, this is what service means to me."
Casey Hayward is an older sister. She spent a good portion of her life looking for direction, only to learn that her experiences in sisterhood were pointing her towards her purpose—teaching.