Searching for the dream

I work in a room with no windows. All day I watch the refracted light from the skylight, which is made from those swirly glass blocks, dance and change on the floor. Sometimes, my coworker and I look up in surprise and wonder what’s going on when the sun bursts forth from the clouds and a giant beam of light shines into our room. We notice the natural light so much because we try to keep the harsh, florescent, overhead lights off as much as we can.

"window"the skylight, as mentioned above

Sometimes while I’m riding the bus to and from work, I think about how different my current job is from what my graduate school experience was just over a year ago. The mountains, the mama bear and her cubs, the darkness, the moss and lichen, the quiet, the snow, and the leaves of different trees pass through my mind. It’s so different to teach in the outdoors instead of a classroom.

After my graduate residency experience of living at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center, I wanted to dive head first into anything and everything revolving around the environment. Serendipitously, I was able to get a work-study position at the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham. Through that I was able to do research and writing for an exhibition on climate change (which opens November 2013). I spent a year working on it, then moved to Seattle because, as it goes, there wasn’t enough money and the only constant in life is change. I found my current position of Lead Infant Teacher at Bright Horizons South Lake Union after quite a bit of searching. This city is great for those with an inclination toward the environment.
My position is not a glamorous job, nor is it my “career job.” I want to be in Non-nrofit Administration somewhere in the country. I do like my job though. I was even able to spearhead and start our center-wide composting program!
Eight children and one co-teacher make up our little Room Family. Day to day it’s hard. My body aches from quirky up and down motions, instead of from hiking. My ears are ringing from the cacophony of human cries, rather those of birds. My mind is always thinking about bottles, diapers, and sickness, instead of salmon, trees, and soil. It’s good though. I love my children. And yes, they are “my” children. We talk about decay, climate change, the weather, and what it means to grow healthy bodies. I can inform them at the very beginning of life!

CharloMeet Charlotte, one of the eight little ones that Stephanie works with at Bright Horizons

I miss the mountains, prairies, and rivers. Anything natural really. I’m on the lookout for that job somewhere out there that revolves around “the nature.” Until I find it, I’ll play with the babies and enjoy the early stages of my marriage.  Until that time, I’ll take deep breathes, hug my babies close, and watch the sun light dance on the floor.

Leading photo: Evening commute in Seattle. All photos by the author

Stephanie Burgart is a 2012 graduate from North Cascades Institute and Western Washington University’s M.Ed program. Currently, her top priorities include teaching, focusing on personal physical health, career searching, and reading. She lives in Seattle with her husband (who she met at North Cascades Institute) and two cats, trying daily to live a good life.


  1. Ms Jerry Rutherford

    Thanks for sharing–both “your love of nature” and that wonderous child!!

  2. ABI

    Stephi: you are such a good writer!!!
    I felt with you the lack of outdoors, the mountains, the river,the hiking.. in your present job. But thinking of all the love you give your children, they are the fortunate ones.
    And I know pretty soon you will find the job that allows you to be with nature, the nature you love and work hard to preserve.

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