My name is Rachel Retland, and this is my second year serving as a Cultural Activities Coordinator for the Marcus Garvey Cultural Center. I graduated from the Community College of Aurora with an A.A. in Elementary Education in 2018. Today, I am a second-year transfer student at UNC, pursuing a B.A. in Elementary Education with an emphasis in Special Education. As a future teacher and a constant learner, I would like to tell a quick story highlighting my growth process.

During the summer of COVID-19, I was working two delivery jobs, one being at a pizza parlor. My first couple of weeks were all about mastering accuracy and speed. I would quickly scan receipts for extras, pack the items with my pizza in the back of my car, and scan neighborhoods for the correct address to deliver to. One of those days, as I got out of my car to grab an order for a customer, I realized I left their two Liter of Pepsi back at the job.

If I were still in elementary school, I would have cried. In middle school, I probably would have been mentally and spiritually tormented. In high school, I would have been distressed and utterly disappointed in my capability as a driver. Having three years of college under my young adult belt, I mentally shrugged off those feelings. I figured I would inform them about the mistake.

A group of very nice residents answered the door. After explaining the situation, they stated they’d wait to sign the receipt until I had returned the pizza. I went back to the store, grabbed the soda, and rushed back to the house. When I finally gave them the item, the woman surprised me by handing me a five dollar bill. “Oh, ma’am, you don’t have to give this to me! It’s all good! I messed up the order,” I said. “But you came back!” She handed me the bill, and that was it. I tucked it into the armrest that held the receipt. On this receipt was their pre-tip of 10 dollars, which they had signed and given to me after the peculiar but gracious transaction.

This event was not an isolated one. It has been a collection of many that have taught me the meaning of “Growing in Grace”. In my school, home, and faith life, I have always struggled to mentally rest in this environment. I typically tend to beat myself up through comparison, isolation and quitting. Although I still struggle to “Grow in Grace”, I have learned how to rest in it. In my “classroom of life” and classrooms I have taught in and observed, these four things seem to ring up as true:

  1. Grace is not earned when you’ve done well. It’s a gift to help when you fall short.
  2. Growth is a process, with leaps and baby steps.
  3. Trust in the teacher. They love you and care about you. They’ll challenge you and believe in you. They’ll comfort you when you need it, and they enjoy what makes you, YOU.
  4. Beating yourself up never truly works. Asking the teacher for help, and accepting the five dollars (especially when you don’t deserve it), usually works better.

As I continue my education at UNC, I am grateful for all the gifts of grace I have received. From being a part of both the Reisher Scholarship Program and the Stryker Institute for Leadership Development to meeting so many dedicated, hard-working, and kind faculty and staff, I would not be the person I am today without UNC. I hope to use these gifts to give back to others day by day, and eventually to foster a healthy growth environment for my future students.

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