Marvelous Mothers: Miss Ozra Kiss

I have had the privilege of knowing Miss Ozra for a little over a year now. She was Yo’s 1st-grade teacher and if I could have her teach him til he graduates high school, I totally would! She is an amazing woman, mother, and an elementary ed teacher. Did I mention she also coaches cheerleading? When I interviewed her, I wanted to know how she handles it all. Her family is perfect and her husband, Steven, is SO supportive. I just had to know her secret.

Thank you so much for allowing me to interview. I absolutely adore your family. Your kiddos are SO stinkin’ cute. Tell me a little about your little tribe.

We met when I was 15.  I knew Steven in high school and I wanted him to date one of my friends.  They never ended up together, but then I found out he moved. Turns out he moved right next door to me.  I saw him taking out his trash and I was like ‘Seriously?’

So, it was very much girl next door meets the boy next door?

It was exactly like that!  We would sneak out and pretend we were just friends.  I could tell he was courting me, and he would leave a little flower for me.  So, then we were voted most likely to get married, and cutest couple in high school.  It was hard being together and being such a young couple not really getting that 20s experience.  We watched our friends go through a divorce, I just could never do that.  He’s my soulmate.  In college, we lived in a studio apartment with a murphy bed, but it was like $350 a month.  We were starving college students. We lived there for 3 years…no dishwasher, the oven was like an easy-bake oven.  It was tiny and you couldn’t cook anything, except maybe a hot pocket.  

You’re kidding me!  That’s nuts.  But I think that’s how strong marriages work.  The ones that make it through college and crappy apartments and the struggle.

Totally!  It was hard, I’m not going to lie, it was hard at some points…but we did it and we ended up loving it.  We shared a car; I would drop him off at UNLV and I would go to work.  Then he would take the bus to my work when he was done and we would drive home together.    Steven worked at In-n-Out and he would borrow his brother’s Ninja Turtle scooter and he would scooter down to work.

That is crazy!  But that’s probably why your marriage is so strong and why it works because you’ve learned to communicate through the struggle.  He recognizes when you need time, and you recognize when he needs support.

Not only that but seeing our children grow up and be blessed.  You don’t even realize how blessed you are in being able to support your family and spouse until after the fact.

So you went to school for elementary ed. How do you get started once you graduated?

I did 2 different kindergarten practicums, and then student teaching in a 5th-grade class. The teacher, who ended up being my mentor, is originally from the Bronx so she totally knew how to keep 5th-graders in line. She is a single mom and at the time her son was in middle school. She taught me classroom management. I arrived the first-day hair done, makeup on in a cute dress and she totally had me dive right in and showed me how to be hard, but love the children too. I would leave crying almost every day.  She threw me in there and now I look back and I’m so grateful and I still talk to her to this day.  The classroom management part was great because I came out strong and I knew these tiny people were totally capable, and ya know I didn’t come in babying them which I was before. 

How old was your daughter during this?

She was one.

Oh, so she wasn’t in school yet. 

She was in preschool.

So this experience probably helped mold your motherhood?

Ya for sure, but I look back now and I wish I would’ve spent more time with her, but my husband and I were just in college trying to make it through…and you know, she’s always been so independent and I wish I would’ve taken off a couple of years to just spend that time with her.  Because I did that with Noah, but it is what it is and she’s strong and very independent.

I started as a teacher at a private school, making $28,000 a year, no benefits.  They did have a preschool there, so I was working and Abby was there with me, I didn’t have to pay for childcare.  I was pregnant with Noah, after he was born, I took 2 years off and was able to be with him and Abby.  I was able to volunteer in her classroom.

How did you end up back teaching?

A friend, who was the vice principal at the charter school, called me and told me that they desperately needed a kindergarten teacher and the class had already gone through 3 teachers and kindergarteners were suffering.  I wasn’t ready to go back and Christina convinced me to come in an at least see the classroom.  I took one look at those kids and saw it was a disaster in there.  No structure, totally like Kindergarten Cop.  So I was like ‘OK, you got me.’  And then I started teaching and Noah started preschool and I never looked back.

How do you find the balance between family life and teaching?  Especially since your kids are at your school with you?  How do you separate the two?

Husband, Steven, comes into play because he does homework, he gets out their folders, he’s in charge of that.  I pack their lunches in the morning, I get them ready, they are in my classroom for a half an hour before school starts.  Ya know, I hear them fighting already so I have to juggle them and then I teach all day.  So when I get home, I am just like ‘don’t talk to me’.  I teach kindergarten all day and then I have a kindergartener come home with me.  Abby and Noah hang out with their dad while I cook dinner. 

So first, prioritizing…so being a wife first.  Once a month, Steven and I make time for date night.  I have a really wonderful mother-in-law who makes sure we are able to have a date night and supports us in that.  And there’s give and take, so Steven takes care of whatever the kids need at home with school work and I cook dinner and read with Noah.

Aren’t you still a cheerleading coach this year?

Yes!  So that’s my Saturdays and my children are also in soccer.  We don’t get paid to be coaches, it isn’t considered a sport, so it’s irritating, not for the money but for the fact I lose time with my family and after school time with my students.

How do you make time for yourself?

My husband is everything.  He does SO much, I couldn’t balance anything without him.  On Saturdays, he takes the kids and does something special with them so I can have my time without having guilt.  There is mom guilt and then there is also teacher guilt.

Is there? That makes sense, I totally understand mom guilt, and nowadays it seems teachers are more like parents to their students.  How do you keep from having teacher guilt?

Well, it’s like, I promise a lollipop for Monday, I better have that lollipop.  It’s being prepared and having everything ready for them to learn.  Am I going above and beyond and do they feel safe and good with me at school?  Are the parents getting the information they need?  But I wouldn’t trade it for anything and I love it.

When I stayed home with Noah, I felt useless and ended up taking up photography.  I didn’t need to work, but I felt like I needed some purpose, so that’s why I started that.

I think as women, unfortunately, it’s normal to beat ourselves up about anything we are falling short in.

Ok, last question.  It sounds like you’ve had several role models throughout your life, both in teaching and mentoring.  Who would you say has shaped you the most?

My mother-in-law for sure.  I didn’t have the best home life and so she kind of just ended up taking me in, so she was just my mom.  She’s the rock to our whole family.  She has taught me how to be selfless.  Steven and I grew up together, so she is definitely a huge role in my life.  Steven and I are religious and faith is very important to us.

I feel like those couples who have a religion they are devout to that helps them to be selfless to a certain extent, because it’s not all about you, it’s not all about your family…it’s about serving, it’s about knowing that a higher power molds your life…

And that there are consequences and having integrity and being grateful for what you have while working for more.

Miss Ozra is truly a woman with an amazing heart. A wife, mother, teacher, daughter, friend, photographer, coach, best friend to her husband, woman of faith. It’s women like her that make a wonderful impact in this world. She molds young minds and loves with her whole heart.

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