“Why did you decide to become a teacher?”
I get this question all the time, and my response always begins with two words: Camp Alkulana. I first started working at Camp when I was 18 years old, and I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I had thought about acting, journalism, counseling, anthropology, and dance.
But teaching? The thought never occurred to me. I had been home-schooled throughout my K-12 education, so I hadn’t been in a traditional school setting until college. It turns out I didn’t need a traditional school setting to find my true calling.
I needed a camp. I needed a sanctuary of nature with green trees, a bubbling creek, and a cool mountain breeze. I needed camping, hiking, and tubing down a river for 7 hours. I needed the conversations with my 13 year old campers that reminded me of myself at that age. I needed to throw rocks with the 9 year olds who reminded me of my nephews. I needed staying up until curfew planning the perfect Pirate-themed evening program for the next day. I needed the experience of leading Bible Study with children who lit up when they found something new in scripture.
It was in these mountains.
With these campers.
That I truly found my calling.
Being a camp counselor prepared me for teaching in so many ways I have lost count.
It taught me how to plan creative and unique lessons. It taught me that no two children are the same. It taught me not to judge a book by its cover, and to not judge a student their family history or the community in which they come from.
When I am telling someone about camp, and hoping they might apply to work there, I tell them my story. It doesn’t matter what career path you may have in mind. Working in a community of people with a common mission, to love and serve children, will teach you a whole lot. The lessons learned at the swimming hole, in the Big Lodge, around the campfire, or at Piney Park will take you places you would have never imagined!
Written by Victoria Sutton
Victoria has been a counselor at Camp Alkulana since 2011. She teaches fourth grade in Rockingham County Public Schools. Victoria has served as our lead counselor, a CIT leader, and, in 2017, she served as the summer program coordinator alongside the camp director.