One summer day in 1970, my mom accompanied me on a daytrip to Charlestown, Rhode Island for my interview for a teaching position. Paul and I would be moving there in a few weeks and I was anxious to find a job! While Mom waited for me, she picked up a nickel in the parking lot and held onto it, wishing me good luck in my first job interview.
The superintendent and I got along well and I was thrilled when he offered me the job—5th grade classroom teacher. It never occurred to me that my Canadian citizenship would be a problem–I had been a United States permanent resident since we moved from Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec, Canada in 1963. I had a Massachusetts teaching certificate and expected to apply for the Rhode Island certificate. To my surprise and relief, my new superintendent said he would apply for a variance. In other words, he had tried unsuccessfully to find a United States citizen and needed to fill the position. Luckily, it all worked out. When I met Mom outside, she handed me the nickel and congratulated me on a successful interview.
Not only did I feel lucky that day, I soon realized that I might not be so lucky again. Paul and I planned on moving in a couple of years to further his education. I knew I needed to become a United States citizen so that I could continue my career. In September 1971, I applied for citizenship.
I don’t recall taking a written test, but I do recall studying for an interview. There may have been questions about the Bill of Rights. And that was ok. But then I was asked to name my state and local representatives and senators. Oops! I quickly admitted that I couldn’t name them, but that as soon as I become a citizen, I’ll be sure to learn all about them! Somehow, miraculously, the focus in my interview shifted to teaching and I was greatly relieved. My interviewing officer’s daughter was having difficulty in reading. Before I knew it, we were chatting about instructional strategies that might help her.
Shortly after my interview, on October 27, 1971, in a courtroom in Providence, Rhode Island, I became a United States citizen. I received a flag lapel pin, a Certificate of Naturalization, and congratulatory letters from Governor Frank Licht and Senator Claiborne Pell. In addition, I received a very special gift from a friend at my school. She was taking a course in ceramics—a popular hobby in the early 1970s. First, she made a mold of the American flag and then painted it for me. Etched in clay on the back, she wrote, “Here’s to Courage” Nancy “71” It was 48 years ago; I was 22.