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The Effects of Chase(ing) Your Dream

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Chase Mielke

It’s 4 a.m. and you can't sleep...we've all been there, right? For Chase Mielke a 2014 Michigan Teacher of the Year nominee - losing sleep was a common occurrence, but not for some medical reason, or because of a major deadline at the office. For Mielke, it boiled down to his passion for teaching. He is one of those teachers we all wish we had. The one who really cares about you. The one who means "unconditionally" when he says it. That's why he began teaching in the first place.

Growing up in South Haven, Mielke didn't have teachers he connected to in high school, so, he set out to be the teacher he never had. That path brought him to Western Michigan University, earning his degree in Education.

Hired by Plainwell Community Schools the sleepless nights soon began. In addition to handling his responsibilities of curricula development for the school, he also had the opportunity to develop a curriculum targeting at-risk sophomores, called "Positive Psychology." The program since inception has expanded reaching 100+ students each year and in 2012 received a Michigan Association of School Administrators Winner's Circle Award.

But it was the concerns for his students after a rough day of teaching that led him to write a simple blog post entitled, "What Students Really Need to Hear". This post/video changed the trajectory of his career. The post went viral, and now has over 5 million views and served as the catalyst for the website and blog called Affective Living.

Affective Living is now the platform for Mielke's thoughts on various subjects that he folds into blog posts and videos. And with the recent birth of his first child has added a BlogSpot for parents who want some 'not-so-expert-advice on parenting' called "Dadish."

Mielke recalls, "After writing a few blog posts that resonated with people, a lot of doors opened up that helped me increase my writing, speaking, and training exposure. Ultimately, I've put in a lot of work, gotten a lot of feedback from great mentors, and took risks- working four jobs at a time- to contribute as much as I could to the field of education."

One of those mentors was the Quantum Learning Network, a company that provides staff development and curriculum workshops for teachers and school administrators and learning and life skills programs for students. QLN changed him as a professional and a person. Mielke now had the tools to push himself and find ways to fill his calling beyond teaching. He took on side projects, developed new ideas and networked to further craft his job.

When Mielke isn't teaching, writing or booked for a speaking engagement- he's busy being a new dad and enjoying all that Kalamazoo has to offer. This is the city that captured his interest while going to college and a place he describes as "active and a supportive community".

As a family they enjoy Crane Park, the local Farmer's Market, Art Hop and all the festivals around town to name just a few of their favorites- oh don't forget 'The Big Banana Car'. "Ultimately I love Kalamazoo because it has the diverse offerings of a moderate city with the feeling of a small town. It is a true community" said Mielke.

But one piece of the community that ties his love of teaching and his affinity for Kalamazoo together is his 'obsession' with the Kalamazoo Public Library, which he encourages his students to explore. An annual trip for his students is part of a community service field trip. Also as part of the experience the students often write positive notes to hand to strangers.

Mielke shared, "This year, a group approached some of the city employees at Bronson Park to hand them notes. It turns out that these employees not only had received notes in the past, but they still kept some of the notes in the dashboard of their trucks from years ago. I love seeing how simple, kind acts from teenagers can mean so much to people."

Not a lot of people really get to do what they want to for a living, but Mielke's advice is to let your passion pave the way, and find a mentor who can help. Beyond that remembering that taking risks is scary but can be beneficial- and he is proof of it!

"I love the fact that everyday I get to do something that can make someone's life better. I get to mentor young adults, share ideas to help teachers and plant seeds of thought that can change the course of a person's life. And, I get to do it all of it using my passions, my creativity and my strengths," share Mielke.

Enjoy Mielke's insightful blog posts and website Affective Living and follow his posts on WeAreTeachers.com.

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