Real Career Girls: Betsy Rivera on Following Your Own Path

finding your own path

The following is a guest post by Betsy Rivera.  Her bio follows.

Now in my fourth year teaching and my third year at Environmental Charter High School in South Los Angeles,I couldn’t be happier with the choices I’ve made in my life and where I am now. I live in the city and I love my job, people I work with. But before my journey led me here, I had to learn many lessons and make adjustments along the way. Although everyone has a path unique to their story, I’m sharing mine with you in case I can help affirm that doubts are normal and you’re not alone if you don’t get it right the very first time.My path as an environmental educator was a non-traditional one.

Finding Your Own Path

I went through college with my mind set on being social worker. I was sure that this was my life’s calling.

But, once I graduated and began pursuing that calling, I soon found that everything I had worked so hard for up to that point seemed to be taking everything out of me – and not in the best way. I spent so much time worrying about the patients, as I should’ve been. But, what about me and what was good for me? I was doing this to make a difference in these girls’ lives, but at the end of the day, it was at the expense of who I was and what was good for me. I had to come to terms that this wasn’t my calling and this job wasn’t for me. This was the first freak out moment in my career.

Starting Over

I moved home and lived eight months living with my parents, doing odd jobs and hanging out with friends, as I soul searched and tried to figure what it was that I wanted to do with my life. Eventually, I found a job posting as an intern for an outdoor education camp for sixth graders all the way in the Sierra Nevada mountains. It was a one-year commitment away from my home in Porterville, which was a lot to ask of a 23-year-old city girl. I initially passed on the opportunity deciding it wasn’t the right one for me but months later, the job was open and so was I, so I took it as a sign to apply without any expectation.

The very next day, I got a call for an interview and a day after that, I was offered the job. Within one week of applying, I began a new job, moved my life the Sierra Nevadas and started my chapter as an outdoor education intern. I didn’t initially sign on to be a camp counselor. However, I found myself planning curriculum for sixth graders based on California’s science standards that included ecology, geology and more. I wore many hats in this job. On top of being a trail guide, I served as hostess in the dining hall and found myself organizing 200+ meals in less than an hour. I also led line dancing and was the campfire entertainment for the kids.

Patrick McGinnis

Through the job required me to perform many different functions, I learned, grew and loved being out in nature. Sure, there were some tearful moments as there are always new challenges and doubts in any job, but I knew right away that I had made the right choice. Every single day, I was fulfilled and challenged, and my soul didn’t feel trapped as I did before.

Following Your Own Path

After my year was completed with the SCICON, I took a job in Yosemite because I knew that I was good at planning curriculums and programming for kids, and I really enjoyed it. There, I took my experience to the next level as I planned out hikes for kids, curriculums for every grade level from fourth-12th and I never got tired of it.

I ultimately found my way into classrooms because I was drawn to the idea of finding my own personal place but I also had a growing desire to plant roots in an area where I  saw myself wanting to live, grow, find relationships and settle down. As much as I loved Yosemite and the mountains, there was no denying that it was a very rural place and I was missing the city.

I returned to Los Angeles to pursue my teaching credential, then my masters in digital teaching and learning. I loved nature but I was also interested in technology, so I figured, there has to be a way to combine the two. After much research, I attended Azusa Pacific University’s satellite campus in Ventura, accepted a job with NatureBridge in the Santa Monica Mountains where I continued my involvement with outdoor education work, communications, development, website content management and much more. I was elated that all my passions were coming together.

Venturing Out

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at NatureBridge and really could have stayed there for longer, which would have been the easy choice to make, but that newly minted teaching credential beckoned me to at least try classroom teaching in order to make the best decision possible.

My first year of teaching was extremely difficult. I had heard that there was no way to have a perfect first year no matter how much you prepare. There is so much to know, learn and do.

But, my big AHA! moment after being at ECHS these last few years is that I can’t be a teacher just anywhere. I needed to find the right place and right organization for me, and I’m happy to say that through trial and error, I’ve found my home for the foreseeable future.

reflection pondering woman pixy

Take Time To Reflect

I challenge anyone either starting in their career or even in the twilight of their career to periodically ask yourself these three questions:

  1. If you’re not fulfilled emotionally, ask yourself if it’s worth it.
  2. Take a chance on doing something that interests you even if you’re not certain if it’s the right thing for you. You never know unless you try, work hard at it, give it a fair shake and then you can always change your mind.
  3. It may take time to find the right organization (and maybe a false start), but you will know once you do.


Betsy-Rivera ECHS

Betsy has 7 years of experience in outdoor environmental education in Yosemite National Park and the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area Betsy joined the ECHS team in Fall 2014 and is excited to bring her passion for the outdoors to ECHS. Betsy’s personal mission in life is to make a positive difference in the world and she hopes to do that by inspiring ECHS students to form a personal connection to the natural world and responsible actions to sustain it.

Whenever she can, Betsy uses her ukelele or guitar to play cover scientifically-themed covers of Top 40 songs. Betsy enjoys bringing people together through large home-cooked meals, has been known to get distracted by a cool bird sighting, and will never be without at least three pairs of shoes or a smile.

Some random facts about Betsy include: she is first generation Guatemalan, she once ruptured her Achilles Tendon while skateboarding, she arm-wrestled Ken Burns over who has the better job, and Betsy wants people to know that I Do Think I Can Dance!

Ms. Career Girl

Ms. Career Girl was started in 2008 to help ambitious young professional women figure out who they are, what they want and how to get it.