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Embracing Differences: Finding Home and Family at Woodward

After completing my bachelor's degree in mathematics and computer science in Romania, I came to the United States on July 11, 2004, as an exchange teacher, looking for new challenges and opportunities to improve myself as a professional educator. I spent three years teaching middle school in Columbia, South Carolina. In January 2007, I interviewed with former Woodward Headmaster Ron McCollum, and he hired me right away, helping me and guiding me every step of the way.

I moved to Atlanta looking for new challenges and new opportunities, and Woodward Academy was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Woodward helped my immigration status, sponsored me for an H1B visa (I was on a J1 visa before) and took care of all the paperwork for me. Woodward helped me find a place to stay for my first year in Atlanta. Woodward encouraged me to continue my education and helped pay for my out-of-state tuition. I completed a master's degree in biostatistics at Georgia State University while working full-time.

When I say Woodward, I mean the entire Woodward family—faculty, staff, students, and parents. Everyone is so very welcoming and always happy to help or to just listen.

(Mr. McCollum was the first person I met on the campus, the person who had the greatest impact on me, and the one who helped me the most. When I became a U.S. citizen recently, he was one of the first one to congratulate me. Even now he is looking out for me.)

I obtained my green card in fall 2011, but it wasn't enough for me. I wanted to vote, and I wanted the right to call myself an American because I feel American. I feel like I belong here. I have spent my entire adult life here. I work here. I pay taxes here. I went to school here. I met the love of my life here. We bought our first home here. We had our first child here, and this is the place where we want to raise our son. We want to offer him the best possible education and all the great opportunities this country has to offer.

Here at Woodward, I am accepted for who I am, and it doesn't matter what language I speak at home, or if I understand the rules of baseball. I am not judged. Here I can be who I am, without having to worry about what people think. I do not have to give up being a Romanian, being different.

I commute 39.8 miles to Woodward, one way, and we all know that traffic is a nightmare, but I just can't give up Woodward, my adoptive family.

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Gabriella Reizer, Upper School Math Teacher

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