Welcome to JDRF Bay Area’s blog, One on 1, a series of interviews with people who live with type 1 diabetes (T1D). Members of our community talk about how T1D affects them, how they manage it, and what they have accomplished despite it. For this entry, we invited Garrett Jensen, leader of the JDRF Young Leadership Committee (YLC) of Silicon Valley, back to interview Kerry Esrey, middle school teacher and YLC member. They both live with T1D.
GJ: Why did you join YLC? How long have you had T1D?
KE: I was one of the first members to join YLC Silicon Valley! It is wonderful to have an outlet where I can catch up with other young adults with type 1 diabetes. At our meeting, I always learn from others about current diabetes research, community events, and how to cope with the disease. Although I have had diabetes for 14 years, I can always use new pointers! I also find inspiration from other who, like me, battle this condition day-in and day-out.
GJ: How do you maintain your blood sugar while teaching?
KE: Teaching 7th grade English for the past two years, I am busier than I have ever been in my life. I see four class periods of 35 students each… and so I interact with 140 students daily. I am outwardly focused on my students all day, and it was initially challenging to strike a balance between caring for others and still taking care of myself. My CGM has been an incredible asset in helping me maintain that balance —the alarms for high and low blood sugar serve as reminders to take care of my body. I have learned that I cannot teach young minds if I don’t first look out for myself! My students love to look out for me and they are particularly pleased when I ask them for support (“Hey Mariah, can you bring me my glucose tabs?”). We help each other.
GJ: How did you explain diabetes to your students?
KE: I talk to my students about diabetes the very first week of the school year. As their English teacher, I tell them that I will be asking them to share much about themselves in their writing—and that it is therefore only fair if I share parts of my life with them. Students are intrigued by my “diabetes story” because I was their age when I was diagnosed. When I tell them about taking injections and checking my blood sugar, I can see the fascination on their faces. I allow students to ask me any questions about diabetes that they have. Some love to comment (“Oh I know about it, my cousin has a pump!), and others know very little and ask TONS of questions. I thoroughly enjoy sharing this vital part of my identity with students.
GJ: Have you ever had a student with diabetes?
KE: Last year when I was teaching 10th grade summer school, I had a student with T1D. Needless to say, he and I bonded instantaneously. Whereas many teachers had trouble “getting through” to this student, he would work with me in a way that could only be explained by the “diabetic bond.” (The strength of our bond only grew when we realized we had the same color insulin pump!). I like to think that our strong rapport was one reason that he passed his class with flying colors. 🙂
GJ: What is next for you?
KE: Next year, I will continue teaching 7th grade English at Downtown College Prep in San Jose, and I am excited for year 3 of this crazy and rewarding career. And… I am getting married on November 10th of this year! My fiancé Max is also a YLC member. He supports me in every facet of my life, from teaching to T1D. (Right: Max popped the question!)
Join our JDRF YLC Facebook page for our next happy hour: facebook.com/JDRFYLCSV
About JDRF YLC
The Young Leadership Committee (YLC) of Silicon Valley is a group of young professionals dedicated to raising awareness and funds for JDRF. We host various networking and social events that attract young professionals in the Bay Area.