Tracing Passions

I’m an architect, and have been since November 4, 2015, when I received my license to practice from the Georgia State Board of Architects and Interior Designers. It was a proud day, many, many years in the making.

Becoming an architect is a multi-year process involving at least five years of college education, three years of work experience, all capped off by passing seven exams—a process that often takes another five to seven years.

All in, that means the fastest possible path to licensure, from the start of architecture school to the receipt of official seal is eight years; and while I met that timeline, it’s not that simple. In hindsight, my path was much longer, having started more than a decade before I started my first year of college.

Going back as far as kindergarten, it’s easy to see my trajectory to where I am today. In Ms. Long’s kindergarten class, my favorite activity was the sand table. In a drawing from February of my first year of elementary school, I proclaim (through my teacher’s handwriting) that I want to be a construction supervisor—a career that is not all that unlike architecture—especially in the mind of a 5 year old.

As time marched on through my years at Spalding Drive Elementary in Sandy Springs—through Ms. Castlin’s first grade class, Ms. Sorenson’s second grade class, Ms. Pipkin’s third grade class, Ms. Tillman’s fourth grade class, and a reprise with Ms. Pipkin for fifth grade—my passion for learning was nurtured. Math, history, science, art, reading, and writing would all shape my future path; even if I didn’t know it yet.

Middle school was much of the same. As generic classes turned into specific subjects, I uncovered a love of math. Ms. Theriot’s geometry class in eighth grade got me excited about the origin of shapes and how they could be derived through logical, methodical means.

By all accounts, I was a good student—my report cards show A’s and an occasional B (after elementary school, science never quite excited me as much). But despite my dedication to school, my notebooks reveal that I spent less time taking notes, and more time drawing buildings—ever more elaborate as the years went by.

In high school, I had more than one teacher call me out for not paying attention to what they were saying, as I focused on the drawings in my notebooks. But when they would wander by my desk and glance at the pages, filled with drawings, their approach would soften. It didn’t hurt that I tended to do pretty well in class, despite my side interests.

By the time I graduated from North Springs High School, my direction was clear. Architecture was my passion, despite having never taken a class in it. Of the dozens of teachers I encountered in my 13-year journey in school, not one had a background in the profession; but with their collective support, I picked up the skills that I would need to succeed in life, whatever direction I went in.

I’m very proud of where I am today. My parents did a great job raising me. I’ve been fortunate to meet the right people to motivate me to take the next steps in life, and I’m not going to say I didn’t work hard, too.

But as students prepare to head back to school, I have to take a moment to think about all of the teachers—those who taught me all the skills that I’ve used to get to where I am now. Without them, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today.

It’s not merely the lessons and lectures that make an impact on life, but the recognition and nurturing of passions. A good teacher can make things come alive and shape the way you perceive the world. I was very lucky to have quite a few good teachers, and for that, I am thankful.