12/27/2013 11:16 am ET Updated Feb 26, 2014

Reflecting Back On a Year With Gratitude

sandy hook vigil

As the Christmas holiday gives way to New Years Eve, I am reminded that 2014 is right around the corner. This causes me to stop for a moment, and quietly reflect on 2013 as it nears its end. For myself, in 2013, there has been a definite shift from the life I led prior to it, and yet in many ways, my life is now exactly the same as it always was. When you go through a trauma, a tragedy forces you to reevaluate the path your life is taking. It forces you to really dig deep and find your purpose. It forces you to make a choice as to how will you live your life from that moment onward.

I have always been a teacher. I have always wanted to help make children's lives better. Both are still at the core of everything I do.

For myself, not being able to wrap my mind around the events of that tragic day, not being able to find the answers to why, made me seek out questions that I could answer. The day I made that choice was the day my healing began. Once I made a conscious decision to focus on moving forward in a positive way that gave my students and my control back, I got a piece of myself back.

Things happen to each of us in life -- good, bad and everything in between. What we each must come to realize is that it's not what happens to us in life that defines us, but in how we choose to respond to it that defines us.

What I have come to realize is that perspective is amazingly powerful. In the best of times in your life, or the worst, you can always choose your reaction to it. You are the only one who holds that power.

I will never move on from that day, but I have to move forward, and I will.

2013 has been challenging, with some days harder than others. One thing for sure is that I am very grateful for it. I'm grateful that I was a part of it, I'm grateful for the new people I've met and for the people who have always been there. I'm grateful to be able to hope for 2014. I'm incredibly grateful, and that's a choice I made.