To All My Teachers – A Note of Gratitude

May 7th, 2019

This past week I sat down with my calendar and started mapping out blog posts topics for the next few weeks.  I put on the calendar for today: BLOG – TT (meaning Teacher Tuesday blog post) and couldn’t find myself landing on a topic I felt really excited to write about.  I flirted with questioning techniques, my favorite apps, or even end of the year activities but then I remembered – it’s National Teacher Appreciation Week!  And then I got my wheels turning… I’m used to this week being about being an educator – the deals, the free meals, the jeans days because I am an educator – through and through.  But then I got to thinking and decided I wanted to do something a little different with this post.  I want to thank all of my teachers – including my students.

I’ve been blessed in my life to have amazing education experiences – people who challenged me, supported me, dreamed with me and brought me back down to earth.  The educators in my life are my role models, the people I think to for “Well what would _____ do?” or “What would ________ say to me about this lesson?”  Beyond the teachers in my life through being in education has always been about the kids for me and the things they’ve taught me.  SO here’s to you, all my teachers, in no particular order (except kind of chronologically).

  • To Dr. NB my high school science teacher who taught me that I really did need to read the book and study!  And for gifting me with a deep appreciation for science.  For also teaching me in ways that clicked and having infinite patience with me.
  • To Mrs. Day (in heaven) my middle school and high school math teacher who taught me that it’s probably better to do my homework on time 🙂  Also for gifting me an appreciation for corny jokes, math and showing me an example of a teacher who is warm and caring above all.
  • To Mrs. Ridenour who taught me how to fail with grace and then get back up and try again.
  • To Dr. Pease who is the educator voice in my head and taught me that teaching is more than just activities and fun but purposeful planning.  That I’d enjoy teaching more when my lessons were deeply connected to learning goals and how to write essential questions and rubrics – which now has made me a stickler for these things. 🙂
  • To Dr. Harraway who taught me how to set up my room for success and how to focus on the positives in kids to get the best results.
  • To my Middle Ed Cohort – who inspired me all the time and taught me about great teaching in all subjects.
  • To my Quioccasin Family – who taught me how powerful a supportive community is.
  • To Susan Mallon – who taught me how to be dedicated to your passions and that teaching sometimes doesn’t show rewards until a few years later when the students start coming back.
  • To Natosha Webb and Anne Hampton – who taught me how to laugh through the toughest and most stressful times.
  • To Andrea Burton who taught me how to think outside the box and not be afraid to shake it up a bit.  Also for being a leader in standards-based grading and flipped classroom for me!
  • To Jay Golding who taught me that sometimes you have to make a big mess to make a big impression and that anything can be done with the right tool.
  • To Kara Zedaker, Kelly Smith and my other science team who taught me how to work as a team and design great hands-on inquiry.
  • To Jessie Burbic, and Jennifer Maddux who taught me how to solve any problem with creativity and willingness to try anything!
  • To Sarah Fidler, Jeannie Redford, Jenny Smith, Tedra, Gil, Andrea S, Sarah Ligh, Jess Bowden, Dawn Bullen, Mindy, Kaitlin, Catherine, (and more and more and more) who taught me that sometimes you just need to go cry it out in the E-Hall Bathroom.  🙂
  • Becky Collier who taught me how to be a great listener and that numbers don’t always measure my worth.
  • To Kourtney Bostain who taught me how to think more deeply about content, plan more deeply, and teach more deeply beyond my wildlest dreams – you taught me so much about how big and powerful teaching and learning could be.
  • To my later ITRTs Terri and Brooke who taught me how to take an idea and run with it and that trying new things can be so fun!
  • To the ITRT/ILC team who taught me that work can be SO FUN and for teaching me how to really help teachers.
  • To the Wilder teachers + staff who taught me that despite what people may think about Title 1 schools you are the hardest working and most devoted teachers I may ever meet.  Also for showing me that any child can learn and all children hold beautiful potential.

And now for the ones who don’t get noticed during teacher appreciation week… my students

  • To my FIRST YEAR students (class of 2017) who taught me how much I LOVED being a teacher and that good routines and procedures make everything else so much easier.  Also for teaching me that no matter what you should be yourself – even if you’re the weirdo new teacher who is dancing and singing through the halls.
  • To my SECOND YEAR students (class of 2018) who taught me that to be a good teacher, I had to start with the heart and approach with LOVE.
  • To my THIRD YEAR students (Class of 2019) who taught me how to fight for kids that others might give up on and that value and effort can’t be measured by just a number of a test.  Also what the perfect half-court shot into the trash can for the Megamanji WIN can look like!
  • To my FOURTH YEAR students (Class of 2020) who taught me how to keep pushing myself to improve and be a learner myself.
  • To my FIFTH YEAR students (Class of 2021) who taught me how great it feels when hard work pays off and how much I’d LOVE working with eighth graders!  Also to always check your email because you never know what very important email with a very important appointment might be piled down in the inbox…
  • To my SIXTH YEAR students (Class of 2022) who taught me that teaching is really hard but it’s so worth it to see the growth of each individual student.
  • To the students I’ve worked with as an Instructional Coach – who have taught me the endless depths of creativity and that any child can learn and all children hold value!

WOW what a list – I honestly could keep going and am having a little bit of anxiety that I am forgetting someone who deserves a specific shout out!  Just know that if you are an educator in my life, you mean the world to me!  I value you so much and can’t thank you enough for how you’ve impacted my life.

We all have people who act as teachers in our lives.  They come in all ages, all walks of life and they all make an impact.  If you’re thinking of thanking a teacher in your life don’t worry about the Pinterest hacks or the snacks (though those are great), just take the time to tell them how they impacted you.  For me, the teachers in my life have impacted me so deeply that I think about them all the time!  I would love the opportunity to see these people, chat with them, get a snack, laugh, catch up, and thank them.  

CAUTION: low quality – non-edited iPhone images below that are filled with some of my most FAVORITE people and memories.  I kept pictures of my students out since I don’t have permission to post them.  🙂 


The Dave Ramsey Life – Our Road to Being Debt Free

On Monday we did something so exciting!! I have been looking forward to this moment for MONTHS (18 to be exact).  When the time came to hit the submit button I was OVERJOYED because this online click represents a year of changes, struggles, anxiety, pain, joy, and pride.  This past Monday we PAID OFF MY CAR!!! We are on our way to financial freedom having paid off almost all our debt (still working on student loans) and I’m thrilled with our progress!

This time last year we were living on one paycheck and felt like we were in a HOLE that we couldn’t get out of.  Two humans, two dogs, too high of a rent payment – one paycheck.  We were stressed, emotional, trying to keep up with the same lifestyle we had just a few months before and realizing that we needed a change.

The backstory of all of this can be read here: Part 1  & Part 2 but the long and the short of it is that in February/March of last year Sterling left his job.  We were left with one paycheck, all the same bills and a rent that was too high for our current status.  We also had student loan payments, and credit card payments.  We felt totally hopeless.

And then I realized that other families do this all the time, they live off one paycheck and far less than what we have.  There were people coming out of debt and finding a manageable lifestyle within their means that I could look to as an example.  So I started looking up budget solutions because I felt like there had to be a book or something that could help us figure out how to do this.  Then one night we were in Barnes and Nobel and I asked Sterling if we could go to the financial section and SMACK.  Right in front of us was Dave Ramsey’s whole collection of books including “The Total Money Makeover – A proven plan for financial fitness“.  I thought well geez looks interesting so we sat down in the aisle of Barnes and Nobel and skimmed it.

The book is funny!  And honest!  And it gave real step by step plans for how to live in our means, get out of debt and save for our future to live like no-one else.  I looked to Sterling and said – “I think this could really help us – I think we should buy this, both read it and try his plan”.  He was a little hesitant at first because Sterling doesn’t like gimmicks and neither of us was sure if what Dave Ramsey said would really work, but we thought – “Well… it can’t hurt” and we bought the book.

This decision has changed our lives.

I don’t really mean to be dramatic but I seriously know that this book, this plan and this moment in Barnes and Nobel was an answered prayer and one that has changed not only the past year, but our future.  Why?  Because we have a plan.  A plan for how to save, how to use our money down to the penny, how to get out of debt and make money work for us.  It hasn’t been perfect but it’s been good.  The best, and I mean BEST part about this has been the peace of mind that this has made us feel.

Dave Ramsey’s plan taught us simple little truths and challenged our lifestyle so that we could pay off our wedding ring payment, two credit cards, a $25000 car loan and make long term plans for student loans and retirement.  Here’s some basics of how this happened for us but for the whole Dave Ramsey plan I HIGHLY recommend reading his book.

FIRST: We reviewed past statements
The first step for us was going through and looking at old bank statements to see where we were spending money and what things we could cut.  This also helped us see where we were wasting money and what kind of budget we needed for things like food.  We realized we were spending and wasting a lot of money on eating out and food when we could have been making food at home.

SECOND: We downsized 
Soon after starting this path we knew we could not afford our current rent and needed to downsize.  So we went to the leasing office and changed our lease over to a one bedroom.  Our new tiny (but affordable) space didn’t have enough room for our things so we had to make cuts.  We gave away a good 1/3 of our stuff to Goodwill, packed and stored another third in friends and families attics, basements and sheds and moved into a teeny tiny (but affordable) space.  This step was hard because we had to change from a lifestyle of saying yes to fun things with friends and things we wanted to only working with things we needed.  Our friends were amazing and people who knew the story were really supportive but it was hard explaining our choices to people on the periphery.  I actually had someone, after telling them we were downsizing, look at me and go “What are you BROKE or something?!”  Ow.  If you’re choosing to get financial freedom and make good decisions for your family, these comments might/probably will happen but don’t let it get to you.  While last year that comment really hurt my feelings, now I can shrug it off because we’re in a much better place!

THIRD: Mapped out a CASH budget 
After we looked at the old statements we sat down with a google spreadsheet and mapped out all the money coming in, all the money that HAD to go out for bills, food etc. and then what was left over.  We cut our food budget down to $75 a week which meant we couldn’t eat out like we used to.  As per Dave Ramsey’s suggestion, we would sit down together each month and make the budget together with honest conversations about what we needed, wanted and could live without.  We took out CASH for each of these budgets and put them in envelopes for each week.  This helped a TON because we had to use only that amount of cash and when it was gone – it was gone.  We started grocery shopping at discount places like ALDI and Lidl and found that we saved SO MUCH money and the food was just as good!  We started seeing that this strict budget was actually not as uncomfortable as we thought and we still had a fine lifestyle – we could have even sacrificed more.

FOURTH: DUMPED into Debt! 
All the rest of the money that was left over after our cash budget and bills, we DUMPED into our debt.  Last spring when we just had one paycheck had nothing extra and could only pay minimum payments.  But when we moved up to Baltimore and transitioned back to two paychecks we kept our same strict budget from before and had a lot left over to dump into debt. This is what helped us pay off our credit cards, ring payments, and our car in just 18 months.  When our income shifted back to a higher rate – we could have easily increased our fun but being on the strict Dave Ramsey plan taught us that we really didn’t need to – we still had plenty of fun living in our means while dumping down on our debt.  Last year before reading Dave Ramsey’s book –  I never would have imagined that we could pay off all this debt so quickly.  NEVER.  I never would have believed that we had excess to put towards debt.  But we did.  We just never realized it because we didn’t force ourselves to make sacrifices and live within our means.

So where are we now!? Now we are at a place where we only have student loans left (which we are kind of treating like a mortgage) and are able to save for a down payment for a house one day and any other emergencies that might come up.  We feel way more in control over our money and where it’s going in our future.   Just the freedom of feeling more in control over our money has made a HUGE difference in our lives.  We feel so blessed and are so grateful to be moving forward in the Dave Ramsey plan!  We are moving on to baby step 3 and are SO EXCITED!

If you’re in a place like we were last year I highly recommend checking out Dave Ramsey’s resources.  The reality is though that there are a lot of resources out there can help.  Dave Ramsey really helped us but in all honesty, it was US that had to do the hard work.  Just mapping out our budget, telling our money where to go and taking out cash was a huge step forward for us.  Then when we started cutting things we didn’t need – it started to change our mindset, we didn’t need all this stuffHere is a blank copy of the spreadsheet we use to budget – feel free to make a copy of it and adapt it if you want.  If it doesn’t make any sense you can always reach out and I’ll explain how I formulated everything – sometimes it takes a little tweaking.  🙂

Alexandra Michelle Photography - Our Family Legacy - Path to Debt Free-3Alexandra Michelle Photography - Our Family Legacy - Path to Debt Free-4Alexandra Michelle Photography - Our Family Legacy - Path to Debt Free-8Alexandra Michelle Photography - Our Family Legacy - Path to Debt Free-9Alexandra Michelle Photography - Our Family Legacy - Path to Debt Free-11Alexandra Michelle Photography - Our Family Legacy - Path to Debt Free-14Alexandra Michelle Photography - Our Family Legacy - Path to Debt Free-16Alexandra Michelle Photography - Our Family Legacy - Path to Debt Free-24Alexandra Michelle Photography - Our Family Legacy - Path to Debt Free-29Alexandra Michelle Photography - Our Family Legacy - Path to Debt Free-31Alexandra Michelle Photography - Our Family Legacy - Path to Debt Free-33

National Arboretum Spring Family Session

This session was the perfect POP of spring colors and fun!  Christina is a sorority sister of mine and I realized as I was driving down to DC that hadn’t seen her since we graduated!  CRAZY!  Last time we were together we were dancing about to pop hits of 2010 and jumping about in general 22-year-old excitement for life.  Now she is married with a 1-year-old little boy – Lincoln!

As I drove down to DC on Saturday morning I was a little nervous… it had rained the whole night before and was still overcast and drizzling.  I kept looking at the sky saying “Common now – you need to break up these clouds for me”.  Sure enough, as I got closer and closer to the location the clouds started to move apart and let that sunshine come through.  The day turned out even better than I could have imagined – bright sun, 75 degrees and simply beautiful!  Read More »

Sterling’s Sort of Surprise 30th!

Two weekends ago we set out to throw Sterling a surprise 30th birthday party and we well… sort of succeeded :). We ended up having to tell him that we were throwing him a birthday party which is a long story BUT we didn’t have to tell him any of the details!  The nice part was that once he knew there was a party I no longer had to sneak around hiding things.  For instance, I originally planned on telling him that I was going to Richmond for a newborn session but really I was going to go to my parents, buy the food with them on Friday afternoon and cook it all there Friday night.  Once he found out though I was able to get all the food when it was convenient and cook it at my own pace at home.  HUGE load off!  Read More »

Ida Lee Park, Leesburg Maternity Session

Chris and Julia in college were the friends that everyone just loved being around!  They were always willing to hang out and are so easy going that being around them is easy fun!   What I mean by “easy fun” is that friend that it’s easy to have fun with, no matter what.  These friends are GOLD!  You can slip right into great conversations, instant giggles and making new memories without having to rely on just the nostalgia.  Not all friends are like this you know?  Some friendships for better or worse are a little more work and require a little more effort getting back into.   But Julia and Chris?  Not so!  They are the old friends who you want in your life always!

So getting to hang out with Jackson, the combination of these two amazing, fun and genuinely kind people, was a dream!  It’s cool to see what aspects of each of them he has and also how their natural parenting style has impacted his personality as well.  Because they lived abroad for some time and traveled a lot with him he is the easiest going kid around!   He was a little shy at first but then soon after, warmed up and wanted to explore and talk and learn new things.  He is sweet and thoughtful like his parents and curious but cautious too.   As we walked around he was immediately interested in the wildlife around and wanted to explore, all while with an air of “easy does it”.

We spent our first of three milestone sessions together at Ida Lee Park in Leesburg, Virginia.  It was my first time there and I was VERY impressed!  It is a huge park with a ton of space and areas to take pictures.  I can only imagine what it’s like in the Spring and Fall when everything is in bloom or crisp with color.   The nice part about this park was that since there was so much open space we had plenty of privacy and were never bothered by others.  We spent our session together walking around the park talking and avoiding the serious gusts of wind that blew by.  As we finished up we found a small little playground and stopped to play, a great way to end an already awesome time together!  Jackson was such a ham as he played!  He’d sing “The Wheels on the Bus” as he pretended to drive a school bus, put his hands up to slide down the swirly slide and cautiously took risks like climbing up one of the wiggle walls (not the official term).  We had a blast!

Below are some of my favorites from our first session together!  The next time we meet for a session I’ll be meeting their new baby Ryan!

Alexandra Michelle Photography - Leesburg Virginia - Family - Maternity Portraits - Ida Lee Park - Spring 2019 - Perez-1Alexandra Michelle Photography - Leesburg Virginia - Family - Maternity Portraits - Ida Lee Park - Spring 2019 - Perez-12Alexandra Michelle Photography - Leesburg Virginia - Family - Maternity Portraits - Ida Lee Park - Spring 2019 - Perez-20Alexandra Michelle Photography - Leesburg Virginia - Family - Maternity Portraits - Ida Lee Park - Spring 2019 - Perez-19Alexandra Michelle Photography - Leesburg Virginia - Family - Maternity Portraits - Ida Lee Park - Spring 2019 - Perez-14Alexandra Michelle Photography - Leesburg Virginia - Family - Maternity Portraits - Ida Lee Park - Spring 2019 - Perez-34Alexandra Michelle Photography - Leesburg Virginia - Family - Maternity Portraits - Ida Lee Park - Spring 2019 - Perez-30Alexandra Michelle Photography - Leesburg Virginia - Family - Maternity Portraits - Ida Lee Park - Spring 2019 - Perez-43Alexandra Michelle Photography - Leesburg Virginia - Family - Maternity Portraits - Ida Lee Park - Spring 2019 - Perez-53Alexandra Michelle Photography - Leesburg Virginia - Family - Maternity Portraits - Ida Lee Park - Spring 2019 - Perez-57Alexandra Michelle Photography - Leesburg Virginia - Family - Maternity Portraits - Ida Lee Park - Spring 2019 - Perez BW-63Alexandra Michelle Photography - Leesburg Virginia - Family - Maternity Portraits - Ida Lee Park - Spring 2019 - Perez-58Alexandra Michelle Photography - Leesburg Virginia - Family - Maternity Portraits - Ida Lee Park - Spring 2019 - Perez-77Alexandra Michelle Photography - Leesburg Virginia - Family - Maternity Portraits - Ida Lee Park - Spring 2019 - Perez BW-82Alexandra Michelle Photography - Leesburg Virginia - Family - Maternity Portraits - Ida Lee Park - Spring 2019 - Perez-62Alexandra Michelle Photography - Leesburg Virginia - Family - Maternity Portraits - Ida Lee Park - Spring 2019 - Perez-66Alexandra Michelle Photography - Leesburg Virginia - Family - Maternity Portraits - Ida Lee Park - Spring 2019 - Perez BW-88Alexandra Michelle Photography - Leesburg Virginia - Family - Maternity Portraits - Ida Lee Park - Spring 2019 - Perez BW-89


Announcing Mommy and Me Minis!

It’s finally time to announce Mommy and Me Minis!  ::HAPPY DANCE!::  This is my second year in a row doing these fun spring minis and I love it!  Last year I opened up only a few slots seeing as it was my first time hosting them and they sold out within a week!  I’ve already had people reaching out to get on the list for this year’s sessions!  I’ve got a total of 16 slots available and I’m hoping to fill up as many as possible while in Richmond! Read More »

Maddie’s Senior Portraits

— Richmond, Virginia – Softball Senior Portraits —

I have to admit I’m a bit embarrassed it’s taken me this long to get these images onto my blog – especially because they are seriously BEAUTIFUL!  Maddie was one of my students in 7th grade and now is a senior, I seriously can’t believe it!  All my students that I taught are now in high school or college and it is kind of wild to see them all grown up.  Maddie may be taller and older but she is just as kind, smart and humble as she was back in Middle School.  She is incredibly talented too!  She has committed to play softball at George Mason next year!Read More »

Sterling Turns 30! Happy Birthday!


Today’s blog post is a personal one because my husband, Sterling, has officially left his twenties and joined me in the 30s!  THIRTY feels like such a HUGE milestone so I was shocked when I went to the store to grab him a birthday card and couldn’t find any that were specifically for 30.  There were lots of cards for 40, 50, 60, even 80 and of course your teen milestones and young milestones like 5, but none for 30.  When I turned 30 it honestly felt like the new 21!  My friends and I went to Austin Texas and had a merry ole time.  For Sterling’s birthday, we’ve planned quite the treat.  His best friend Bobby and I have been planning a surprise birthday party for him for this Saturday.  Now you may be thinking ALEX!  YOU JUST RUINED IT!  Well, spoiler alert the surprise is busted, BUT, we’re still going along with the party and he doesn’t know anything about who is coming or what is in store so it’s still kind of surprise.  I’ll share more details later – don’t worry.Read More »