By Ms. Danielle Parker, MS Mathematics Faculty
It’s so funny how life works
You often end up in places you never thought you would. Although I was born here, I never thought I’d end back in The Land of Enchantment. God had other plans for me.
I grew up in Rio Rancho until my mom’s career took our family to Phoenix, Arizona
My brother and I were both disappointed to hear that we were going to be moving. We had a group of friends that we really liked and were just starting elementary school. Going to a new school and making all new friends was a scary thought.
But Arizona quickly felt like a place we could call home
My family ended up adjusting extremely well to Phoenix. Yes, the summers are extremely hot (120 degrees to be exact), but like anything, you learn to make the best of it. My mom loved her new job and my dad started working in Education. At our new school, my brother and I quickly formed new friendships. As a family we felt established and secure.
I had always dreamed of becoming a teacher AND an actress
I attended Arizona Christian University and majored in Secondary Education with an emphasis in mathematics and a minor in Biblical Studies. After I graduated from college, I got a job as a high school math teacher. It was cool that I ended up teaching at the same high school I graduated from.
Just like when you start anything for the first time, you must allow yourself to learn and grow in the job. Once my first full year of teaching was finished, I felt a lot better. After my second full year of teaching came around, I felt as if something was missing. I had always dreamt of becoming a teacher and an actress. Now as the teacher I always wanted to be, it was acting that was missing.
An extreme passion for the arts
I had taken acting classes when I was a little girl and was a dancer pretty much my entire life. However, when I started high school, I stepped away from the arts and played sports all year around. Looking back, I realize I did that because I was always athletic. Playing sports was necessary or I would let down my coaches and my parents.
I’m extremely grateful for playing sports throughout high school and college, because it taught me so many lifelong lessons. I wouldn’t trade that time for anything. However, I never enjoyed it as much as I did with acting and dancing. Once I graduated from college, received my degree and was working full-time, it was now time to do what I wanted to do all along. So, I started acting again.
“Once I started acting, that feeling that I had that ‘something was missing,’ instantly disappeared. I knew that this is something that God had put on my heart to do since I was a little girl. Unfortunately, it took me a while to get back into it, but I’m so glad I did. Passions are so hard to explain, but if you have ever done anything that sets your soul on fire and you can’t imagine living without it, then I believe that is your calling from God and He placed that in your heart for a reason. For me, acting is that!”Ms. Parker
After three years of acting in Arizona, I knew it was time for a change. At this point, I had been consistently going to classes, been in several short films, commercials, music videos, a web series and even had my first agent. Everything was moving in the right direction that I wanted it to be for my acting career. There was only one problem. I really wanted to be on TV and in movies. Arizona is such a beautiful state and I loved living there, but sadly it is primarily a commercial market. So, I knew that if I wanted to take my acting career to the next level, it was time for me to move on.
I was driving home one night after just being on set in an extremely fun Halloween themed commercial
It was in October, 2020. As I was driving home the song, ‘Ready, Set, Don’t Go,’ by Billy Ray Cyrus came on. If you have never heard this song before, the lyrics are about a father letting his daughter move in order to pursue her dreams. Here are the opening lines: “She’s gotta do what she’s gotta do. And I’ve gotta like it or not. She’s got dreams too big for this town. And she needs to give ’em a shot, whatever they are.’’
For some reason on that drive home, this song resonated with me so strongly. I’ve always believed that God talks to us and helps guide us. I believed He was telling me that it was time for me to move. When I got home that night, I told my boyfriend. Nine months later I left Arizona.
Let me back it up a little bit
It wasn’t an easy decision to move. Most actors think that Los Angeles is the place to go. There have been hundreds of actors that have gone to L.A. and made it big. Everyone’s story and journey are different.
I told all my friends and my family that I was moving to Los Angeles. You know what they say though, tell God your plans and He just laughs.
“Times are changing and Los Angeles is not the only place to go now. Can you guess where else has an outstanding film market? You guessed it…New Mexico!”Ms. Parker
Being a teacher, I decided I’d finish the school year and then it would be a good time to move. I continued teaching and once the second semester started, I began applying for teaching positions in L.A.. I did several interviews over Zoom. By the time April rolled around and I still didn’t have a job, I was starting to get concerned.
I have always been a planner and like to have things mapped out
After I had twenty plus interviews and was not offered a single position, I wondered what the heck was going on. I began to feel defeated. How could I move to L.A. without a job? It’s already expensive there, and I know some people take chances and just go for it, but the thought of moving without some stability made me nervous.
At this point I remember turning to God and praying, asking Him if He didn’t want me in California. I felt He wanted me to be open minded and think of other places I could go.
The next day I decided to check out teaching positions in Albuquerque. I knew some of my actor friends had moved to Albuquerque and they ended up on some TV shows and seemed to have good luck here. Once I applied, I was invited to have an interview with three different schools. I interviewed with all three schools and guess what?! Every single school offered me a position.
I spent months interviewing with schools in Los Angeles and was never offered a position. Just like that, I was offered three positions! If this was not a sign from God that I was supposed to move to Albuquerque, then I don’t know what is.
I remember telling my friends and my family that I was going to Albuquerque
They preferred me to be here, instead of Los Angeles. Making the move was challenging. I was going to a new state all by myself, while all my friends and family were back in Arizona. I knew it was going to be an adjustment, but I also really wanted to pursue my acting dreams, so I knew I needed to take a leap of faith and go for it.
I moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico on July 9, 2021. At this time, my brother and his wife were not living here yet. However, my Uncle Steve was living here.
I had not seen my uncle since I was a little girl and my mom and him haven’t seen each other in almost a decade. We connected and met up for lunch. It was so great seeing him again.
As I have grown, I now realize how much I have in common with my uncle
When my mom came out to visit me, the three of us got together. That was the first time my mom had seen her brother in years. I really felt that was one of the reasons God brought me here. To help my mom and her brother restore their relationship.
Only God would have known that my brother and his wife were going to end up in Albuquerque, too. I have always been close to my brother growing up. He is a year older than me, so he went off to college before I did. As we got older, I felt we started to drift apart. That really bothered me, because I wanted us to have a good relationship. I didn’t want us to end up like my mom and her brother and go a decade without seeing each other. This is why God is so so good!
After my brother got married, he ended up getting a promotion that brought him and his wife back to New Mexico. We couldn’t believe that we were going to be back together in the place that we were born. Talk about a full circle. It really is the ‘Land of Entrapment.’
Throughout the time that my brother and his wife have been here, he and I have gotten to talk a lot and I feel our relationship has been restored in many ways. I am going to be an aunt! Now I will be here as my brother and his wife raise their first child. I feel so blessed to get to see their baby girl grow and be a part of her life.
Ending up at Menaul School was such a “God thing”
When I first moved to Albuquerque I was working at a charter school. It was long days, and an extremely toxic work environment. I felt myself getting distracted from the pursuit of my acting dream. Mid-year I decided to look for another place to work. I found Menaul School.
Originally I thought I would substitute teach and have more time to focus on my acting career. Then I learned that the middle school math teacher had just put in her two weeks’ notice. Financially, working full-time would be better so I interviewed for the position.
I felt in my heart that I was supposed to be at Menaul
Meeting Ms. Thordahl for the first time was so refreshing. She seemed to really care about the students, and I could tell that she enjoyed her job. Shortly after she and I met, I met with Mr. Gilbert and I felt in my heart that I was supposed to be at Menaul School.
“Just a few short weeks after teaching at Menaul School, I felt an overwhelming sense of joy, peace and happiness. Something that I have NEVER felt working at a school. Menaul School restored the passion and love I once had for teaching. I could go on forever on how much Menaul School has positively affected me, but I would be typing all day.”Ms. Parker
I can’t explain enough how good God is
Looking back, I can now see in so many ways why I was supposed to end up here. Faith can be a scary thing, because we cannot see what’s ahead. We must trust God and His plan for us, and know that ultimately, He has it all planned out for us.
My story continues today, and I still have many wonders for God about my personal life, my acting, where I will end up, how long will certain things take, etc. However, God has proven Himself time after time that everything always works out. In the meantime, I am simply going to enjoy the ride and enjoy my time here, back at the ‘Land of Enchantment.’