Yesterday you met Jess Dang, founder of Cook Smarts, and our first place winner in the Unbreakable Awards. The first runner-up is Charice, a teacher from a Chicago suburb. Her story shows immense compassion and dedication to guiding the young girls in her community to chase after their dreams, regardless of what others may say. Here’s Charice’s story, and we hope this gives you some inspiration for today.
Q: Tell us a little about your background. What hobbies and activities were you into as a child? And what made you want to become a teacher?
A: My parents always supported my interests and passions; I grew up playing all kinds of sports from ice hockey to softball to field hockey. I also enjoyed dancing and playing the piano. I attended a small K-8 school, and then went on to play ice hockey at a private high school and college.
I enjoy being a teacher and an athletic coach because I love acting as an advocate for young children; I love providing them with the tools they need to achieve everything they want in their lives!
Q: Was hockey a big part of your life growing up?
A: Ice hockey was always an important part of my life growing up. The game taught me so many valuable lessons. I learned to be strong and confident on the ice because I was often the only girl in the league who had to hold her own against all of the boys. Ice hockey was also a bond that my father and I shared. He was the one that signed me up to play despite my mother’s reservations. He was my biggest supporter, and instilled in me the belief that I could achieve anything I wanted if I worked hard and stayed persistent. Our family continues to cheer on the Blackhawks every season!
Q: When did you start coaching hockey?
A: I started coaching ice hockey when I was in high school. I live very close to a hockey rink, and I began volunteering my time in the summers.
I love having the opportunity to watch the magic of the game grow through each of the athletes that I mentor.
Q: What does hockey give to young girls that motivates you to coach them in the sport? What impact did it have on your life that you want to pass on to these girls?
A: Ice hockey is a game that demands a great deal of physical and mental strength. I love promoting healthy lifestyles to the girls that I coach because I find that it is so important to show girls how to become the best version of themselves. To be a great hockey player I teach my girls how to possess lifestyles that embody passion, enthusiasm, dedication, persistence, confidence, and strength.
Q: Tell us about the team you’re coaching this year. What are some of the challenges you all have addressed as a team? And is there anything they’ve taught you?
A: I coach a number of boys and girls teams throughout the year; the ages range from 5 to 14 years old. Oftentimes the girls I coach struggle with body image issues because they think you need to have a certain “type” of body to play sports or skate on the ice. I spend my time teaching the girls that there is no right way to have a body. Everyone is unique, and everyone has individual strengths that make the team a cohesive and strong unit. I have learned that the most rewarding kind of successes you celebrate with an individual skater or athlete was often a result of great patience and persistence.
Q: Tell us a little about your relationship with your sister, Chana. She must love and admire you because of everything she said in your nomination!
A: My sister, Chana, is another one of my greatest cheerleaders! She also grew up as a successful athlete, and she’s a teacher in a school district near mine. We are very close because we grew up spending lots of time encouraging and supporting each other through our athletic and academic pursuits. The fact that she nominated me means so much! We are two young gals just trying to enhance the way children learn in the classroom and on the ice.
We are so moved by what you’re doing to help young girls become strong, powerful women, Charice! We wish you, Chana, your students, and your team all the best!