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The “Best” Job in the World

At my last job, when I told people how I made a living, they would invariably exclaim, “Wow! That must be the best job in the world! I’ve always wanted to do that.” People from all walks of life are always up for a little recreation and diversion, perhaps some exercise or just quiet time away in nature. For 15 years I was a park ranger, patrolling ocean beaches of the Pacific Northwest. Now I am a student in the Graduate Teacher Education Program, focusing on secondary education, at Portland State University.


Many of those exclamations turned into reflective conversations. As with so many important moments in life, when we interact with our community at work, school, in our neighborhood and at church, we gain insight and wisdom. Through these interactions, I would learn much about how people perceived their current vocation, and often a bit about how they perceived (or misperceived) mine. Despite their literal claim, I always felt more gratitude than envy from beach visitors. People were genuinely grateful someone was out there protecting our special places. 

Everyone who frequents the Pacific Coast knows the solace that comes with a walk alongside the ocean. I know from experience that public safety and health professionals do their best to provide a safe experience and easy access for recreation.

Keeping visitors safe was a rewarding part of being a ranger, but after years of hearing from so many that they were not doing - not being - what they really felt passionate about, I’d begun musing my own ambitions and passions. How did I want to spend my remaining work life? In undergraduate and graduate school in the 00’s, I’d prepared to be a career biologist and was more passionate about science than ever. In an age where science-based policy-making seemed under siege and citizens showed apathy, or worse even maligned science, was serving as a protector of natural resources where I wanted to be?

As always, the answer was revealed in conversations with my community, just as it had been when I was a ranger. My community, family, and friends all knew I’d be a successful teacher before I did! The Portland State community became my ally in effecting my career pivot, so that I could begin leading change in public schools. 

I’m now in my 7th month of student teaching, a glad PSU Viking who is grateful for the support of my faculty, my cohort teachers, and my mentors. Beginning soon, I’ll be completing my student teaching with online virtual resources like Zoom. It’s not what anyone planned for, but I’m still prepared to encourage young people to ask and answer the most important environmental questions of our time. And when people say to me, “Oh, but you had the best job in the world!” I wink and tell them I still do.

Are you interested in taking on your own passion? Contact Graduate Admissions at gradschool@pdx.edu to set up a time to talk with a Graduate Student Ambassador about what your next steps might be.

PSU Student, Why I Chose PSU, Graduate School, Master's