Deborah Hale

Early Childhood Education Major (age 50)

For over 20 years, I had the privilege of fulfilling my life-long dream of being a wife and stay-at-home mother to four wonderful children that includes a son and three daughters. I was so grateful that God had blessed us with the necessary resources that enabled me to spend my days volunteering at our children’s school, and striving to meet the needs of our very busy family. I was especially grateful for the three years I was able to homeschool the girls, and will forever treasure the time we spent together.

Three years ago, my circumstances changed dramatically. Following an unexpected divorce, I attempted to re-enter the workforce. I quickly realized that I lacked the skills necessary to acquire a position that would not only provide adequate income to support myself and the daughters who were still living with me, but also allow me to save towards the purchase of a new home for my family, and gain greater financial security.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to accomplish it, but I knew in my heart that I needed to overcome my fears, and feelings of inadequacy so that I could pursue my other dream of going to college to become a teacher. I’ve spent many years teaching preschoolers and elementary children in different capacities. I’ve worked in Mother’s Day Out programs, filled in as a substitute teacher at my children’s school, and currently teach a classroom full of 4- and 5-year-olds at my church. I often refer to my Sunday School classroom as my happy place and I want to experience that same feeling every day, surrounded by children who are full of life and curiosity.         

My friends and family began to pray that God would give me wisdom to know what steps to take next, as well as the courage to take them. We also prayed that He would provide the financial resources I would need to attend college because I simply didn’t have the money. It wasn’t too long after we began to pray, that a friend contacted me with the exciting news that our governor had just signed a bill that would allow me to attend college at Chattanooga State, tuition-free through a program called TN Reconnect. I was thrilled! I knew this was the answer to our prayers.

Although I was grateful for the opportunity to attend college, I was also overwhelmed because I hadn’t been in a classroom for more than 30 years. I had no idea what to expect, and truthfully, I was terrified of failing. But by God’s grace, and with the encouragement of my family and friends, I conquered my fears and insecurities and entered Chattanooga State in the Fall of 2017, as a part-time student, pursuing a degree in Early Childhood Education.

There have been challenges along the way, but I haven’t had to face them alone. Besides my friends and family, the staff members at Chattanooga State have been beside me, guiding me every step of the way. They are always available to answer any questions I might have, to send reminders about upcoming deadlines, and even send encouraging messages throughout the semester. It’s like I have my own personal cheerleading squad, and each member gets just as excited as I do every time I get one step closer to achieving my goal!  

After earning my associate degree from Chattanooga State, I hope to transfer to Lee University and earn a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education with a minor in Bible so that I can be better prepared to not only teach here in the states, but also minister to children overseas. I’m willing to teach wherever God might send me, but would love to spend time during the summer months ministering to the children in the AMG childcare centers that my daughters and I have visited in Lima, Peru.  

 Author Mark Edmundson wrote, “education is about finding out what form of work for you is close to being play – work you do so easily that it restores you as you go.” Thanks to TN Reconnect, I will have an opportunity to do what I know God has gifted me to do, and it’s something that not only brings me great joy each and every day, but gives me a sense of purpose and fulfillment. I’m embarking on a new journey at the age of 50, and although sometimes it seems a little overwhelming and even scary, I’m so excited to see where it will take me and how God will use me along the way. I’m working hard, and I’m loving it, and have found a confidence I can’t explain. I didn’t think I could do it, but I’ve learned that “With God, ALL things are possible.” As I continue to trust Him for direction and walk by faith He continues to equip me for each new task and to provide for my every need.