East Texas Moms Blog is taking some time in 2018 to shine the spotlight on some moms in our East Texas community. We hope these stories continue to shine a light so bright, that it brings us together and lets us know we are not alone in this journey!
I got to know this mom through her daughter during the past school year. My older two sons attend the same school and we spent time together as we carpooled to weekly tennis lessons.
If there is ever a true testament of a child’s character, it is the consistency the child has away from her parent. Her daughter delighted us with good manners, humor, intelligence, respect and responsibility. Since then, I’ve learned even more about this stellar single mom, her passions, her past and her present.
Meet Dani Vaughn, East Texas Moms Blog’s August Mom of the Month.
Hailing from Winona, Dani and her 9-year-old daughter, Maddi, now call Chandler and Tyler home. Dani teaches 5th grade reading and U.S. history in Tyler ISD at Caldwell Arts Academy. Being a teacher alone warrants Dani the honor of being Mom of the Month, but being Ms. Vaughn to her adoring students is only one of the hats Dani wears incredibly well.
Dani started her college education at Texas A&M, but soon enlisted full time in the Air Force. Maddi was born while Dani was active Air Force. Thanks to her military service, Dani was able to use the G.I. Bill to complete her education debt-free – cranking out her bachelor’s degree at U.T. Tyler by the time Maddi was in kindergarten. This school year, Dani finished her master’s degree at U.T. Tyler in Educational Administration.
While spending her weekdays mentoring and growing East Texas students, Dani still continues to give one weekend a month and one month each year to the U.S. Air Force Reserves. As a Staff Sergeant, Dani has served 6 years as a medic and more recently, 2 years in Aircrew Flight Equipment inspecting, maintaining and training aircrew on survival equipment, such as parachutes, survival kits, oxygen masks, flight helmets and night vision goggles. In September, Dani will deploy to England for one month with the Air Force Reserves.
Dani’s work doesn’t end with when she turns off her classroom lights or takes off her Reservist uniform. As a Boot Campaign Veteran Ambassador, Dani works to promote patriotism and raise awareness of issues veterans and their families face, bridging the gap between the military and civilian worlds.
“Dani has such passion for our country and promoting patriotism for future generations. Her drive for her country, the community, and her family is remarkable. Dani takes the health and wellness of our veteran community to heart and does all she can for them.”
“Dani is one of the hardest working women I have ever met. I truly don’t know how she does everything and never misses a beat. She not only serves our country, teaches and inspires the youth of today, and works with a group that helps veterans, but is also a loving mom to her precious daughter, Maddi. I couldn’t ask for a better colleague or friend than Dani.”
I asked Dani some questions to learn how she juggles and thrives in her many roles:
What one piece of advice would you share with other single moms that you live by?
It takes a village to raise a child, so find your village. I used to try to do everything myself, but as time went on, I finely put my pride aside and let others help me. Whether it’s carpooling to extracurricular activities or babysitting while I am called to reserve duty, I couldn’t do it all alone. I have been so blessed to be surrounded by wonderful friends and family who have helped me find and maintain a sense of balance and sanity. Find your village. Love them. Embrace them. Let them help you, and return the favor when you can.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
All of my accomplishments mean little to nothing in comparison to watching my daughter accomplish her goals. I guess that means my most valued accomplishment is raising a child who is kind-hearted and has a fearless outlook on the world of possibilities surrounding her.
Back to school is in full swing and all moms are running around like crazy to find that one last school supply. Any advice for a smooth transition back to school?
Take the time to put everything else aside and just be with your child. School supplies, emails, Facebook – it can all wait. Give them your time. They need that. Do something fun together before school starts back and life gets hectic again. Tell them how proud you are of everything they accomplished last year and how excited you are for everything they have in store this upcoming year. Encourage them. Tell them you love them. Spend time with them. Make sure they start school feeling secure and loved! It will be just as good for you as it is for them!
(Read An Open Letter to Parents from East Texas Teachers for great insight.)
What is your favorite thing about teaching?
As a reading teacher, I take a lot of pride in teaching the skill which is the basis for all other skills. Teaching a child to read opens the door to endless possibilities for their future. We are so blessed to live in a country where even the most disadvantaged child can work their way to a better life through education. Education is the gateway to the American dream, and I love being a part of that!
Any remaining goals for yourself for life or career?
I recently finished my masters degree in education administration, so I would like to put that to use in the future as a school principal. I plan on staying in the Air Force until they tell me I’m too old and it’s time to retire, and I hope to continue serving my fellow veterans through my work with the Boot Campaign. Personally, a lot of my goals/bucket list items revolve around traveling. Also (in all my free time 😂), I’d love to learn to play the piano and speak another language.
Let’s salute Dani Vaughn for her dedication to her daughter, her students and our country!