Angela Germano, 6th grade language arts at Toms River Intermediate School, Toms River, NJ

I grew up in Philadelphia, and my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. After 5 years of her battling, the third time it came back, when I was in 9th grade. It took her life. She lost her battle, and I lost my mom. I was really searching for guidance, not having a stable home life at all. It was really my teachers that saved me. I give all of the credit to my teachers and my coaches that picked me up, filled me with confidence, and through them believing in me, helped me to believe in myself, to get through and to go to college.

I had my dad, but he and I did not have the best relationship. He eventually moved with my sister to West Virginia, and I stayed with friends to finish out high school. I didn’t know what I would have done without my teachers and coaches. I remember two years after I graduated high school, knocking on my soccer coach’s door at midnight and I was a ball of tears after a breakup with a boyfriend, and she welcomed me like family.

Now I am a teacher because I want to help instill confidence in my students like my teachers did for me, and make sure their dreams come true no matter what their dreams are.

I co-authored a book last year with 29 other women, called, ‘Women Who Illuminate.’ This little girl came over to me as I was doing a book signing event on International Women’s Day, and she pointed to the cover and said, ‘Wow, is that you??’ And I said, ‘yes, it is.’ And she says, ‘Mommy, look! It’s the woman on the cover!’ And the mom said to her, ‘Maybe one day when you grow up, you can be an author.’ And I said to the little girl, ‘Why wait? Do you write stories?’ And she said yes, and I said, ‘Well I know young ladies who are 8 and 9 years old, and they writes stories that have actually gotten published and became number 1 best sellers. So you can do it too!’ She was amazed. So I told her when she is ready, to write a story and send it to me and maybe I can get it published for her.

Women Who Illuminate is part of the series of books, from the same team who did Chicken Soup for Soul. It is all about women who have found their way out of a dark place, and now they shine their light for others. My chapter is called, ‘Rooted.’ It had this double meaning. Being from the town I was in, it wasn’t a great environment where I grew up, and when my mom got sick, it only got worse. There was a lot of abuse in my household before, during and after my mom got sick. So, when my dad took my sister and left, it all worked out for the best. The idea of being rooted is that I am rooted in where I come from, but that doesn’t mean that that’s who I am. I can become anything that I want to. Just because I was nurtured a certain way doesn’t mean I have to reflect that.

My new book came out this week, called ‘Women Who Rise.’ There are 30 different co-authors all sharing their personal stories how they rose above life’s circumstances.  My chapter is about how I have always had this fear. I didn’t think I would make it past 30, because my mom didn’t. I wasn’t from the greatest environment growing up, I was around a lot of different abuse. So, I put myself through college and started a new life. I didn’t know if I really wanted to have a family, but I knew I was afraid and didn’t have much support. I didn’t know if I could be a parent to another human being. I actually switched careers to cater to this idea of maybe becoming a mom. And then, during my first year teaching full time (I mean I didn’t even have my own classroom yet) I was getting pretty strong accolades from the community for my teaching and all of the community service that I did, and they nominated me for American Legion Educator of the Year, and I was floored. I won at county level, then I won at the state level and became their Educator of the Year in New Jersey. I was so taken aback by all of it. And that really empowered me and I have been overflowing with positive energy ever since. And as I realized all I had accomplished in life and all that I had overcome, all that I had risen above, it helped me to get over my fear of having a family and now we have two beautiful children”

To learn more about her book, or to purchase a copy, click here.

-Interview and photo by Gregory Andrus

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