A dance veteran, VLACS’s Juli Snaer is no stranger to choreography. Sequencing her days lately might be more complicated than the tarantella. In addition to teaching over 70 middle school students as an adjunct VLACS English instructor, she also manages a competitive golfer’s schedule -- it’s her 14-year-old daughter’s.
She laughs, then explains. “My husband is an Air National Guardsman and he also flies for Jet Blue. When my daughter was young, we were stationed in Oklahoma, near a driving range. We took her there on days off. It’s been non-stop ever since.”
Two years ago, Juli and her family moved to Florida to give her daughter more opportunity to pursue golfing. They traveled quite a bit before that. Born in Tennessee, Juli has lived “a lot of places” and finds something interesting about each place. “Florida suits us,” she says, “because of all the golf courses, of course, but it also fits our lifestyle. We love warm-weather outdoor activities, like kayaking, paddle boarding, diving, and surfing, which is a lot easier to do when it’s not frigid like it is in New Hampshire!”
Juli was teaching middle school English, dance, and drama at a brick and mortar school in Colorado when her husband’s military career took off, which brought them to Oklahoma and then New Hampshire.
“When we moved to NH,” she says, “my husband was full-time military, I had a young daughter. I had been working as an editor for an educational publisher. I missed teaching, but I wanted some flexibility because I needed to be around for my daughter.”
After a year or so in New Hampshire, Juli learned about VLACS and started on the Academic Help Desk for a few months before she started as an instructor. “I fell in love with it,” she says. “I like the stories. I love hearing the reasons that my students choose VLACS.”
She tells me about her second VLACS student in her VLACS career.
“This student had PTSD and agoraphobia. Every morning, the mom would drive her kid to school and the kid just couldn’t do it, couldn’t go in. Then they heard about VLACS. Then that student was in my class.”
That’s what did it. “Knowing that I could help kids like that, knowing that we can provide an education for kids who may not get one otherwise. That’s always my favorite part.”
That was six years ago.
Now she teaches Middle School Language Arts 2 and 3 and 8th Grade Projects in addition to serving on the collaboration team and as a mentor for new instructors. She loves it.
“I wanted to be a teacher my entire life,” she says. “I taught dance in college. I fell in love with it. There’s something special about middle school though. It’s a time when kids choose a path. I think it’s pretty cool when I can be any sort of role model. That’s pretty meaningful.”
When she’s not teaching, managing her daughter’s golf schedule, taking care of the dogs, kayaking, or going to the beach, Juli loves “just hanging out” with her family and reading.
“Reading has always been an escape for me, definitely a hobby,” she says. “I read a lot of mysteries and historical fiction. Anything having to do with Sherlock Holmes is a win.” She adds that during all of this time at home lately, she also likes to cook.
Juli likes to share her love of reading with her students and does anything she can to encourage them to read and write more. “We talk about books and writing mostly through conversation,” she says. “I try to learn about their passions and any time I have something to share that might pique their interest, I do.”
Most of her students, she says, are intrigued by their teacher living in Florida, especially in the winter. “I try to keep up with the weather in New Hampshire, so at least I’ll know if it snowed,” she laughs.
She tells me more student stories -- students who’ve battled illnesses, who are competitive athletes, who are hardcore dancers and hockey players, gymnasts, baseball players.
“You get to know lots of different kids and it’s really nice when you know you’ve made an impact. I’ve been at VLACS long enough where I’m working with whole families over time. I get to know them really well.” They get to know her and her family, her love of reading -- and her dogs.
“My dogs typically are laying on the couch back here,” she says and points behind her on Zoom. “Pets open the doors to everybody. I meet my students’ pets, and even those really quiet kids, they open up when they see them.” Juli says of her lab and beagle-corgi mix, “they’re hilarious.”
While the daily tap dance of schedules and needs is a lot, Juli wouldn’t have it any other way. “I love that I can give students a flexible way to learn.”