Malloree Nilson

Day 107:

“School was my misery growing up,” Malloree Nilson, 24, said. “I had trouble paying attention. My mind would go totally blank on tests. I had a lot of anxiety during exams because I saw other people finishing a lot earlier than me. In school, it’s uncool to be the last kid to finish because then you’re just the stupid kid. All of this started when I was really young, too. I was in tutoring as early as 1st grade because I was slow. It was embarrassing. All I wanted was to be the best student and the teacher’s pet. I was trying my best, but everyone thought I wasn’t trying at all.”

Things only got worse for Malloree as she got older and switched from a small school to a much larger one.

“All of a sudden, I wasn’t around the people I’d grown up with. I didn’t have only 6 kids in my class. There were now 30 kids in my class. And they already knew each other and had established cliques. I wasn’t just struggling with schoolwork anymore. Now I just didn’t fit in at all. I got teased. I was socially way behind and I started to feel really bad about myself.”

No one could figure out why Malloree was having problems with school and social situations until the day she was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).

“We were clueless before I got tested,” she said. “Everyone just thought I needed extra help, and that was it. But when I was put on medication for ADD, it was like I had been fumbling around in the dark for a long time and someone finally turned on the light. I still needed extra help in school, but I could actually focus when the teacher was teaching and giving instructions. And we figured out why I was having social problems; people with ADD are usually at least 2 years behind socially and developmentally.”

Malloree started her junior year of high school on medication. Whereas before she hadn’t thought she’d ever graduate from high school, she started making the B honor roll.

“I had always thought I was too dumb to graduate,” she said. “And then I started doing really well.”

She did so well that after graduating from high school, Malloree enrolled at a junior college. She was proud of herself for all she’d achieved, but she was too ashamed to tell anyone about it.

“I kept my ADD a big secret for a long time,” she said. “I didn’t tell anyone in high school or in college. I was too embarrassed. I worried about what people would think of me.”

Malloree’s secret was still just that, a secret, until earlier this year when her best friend called to let her know that a paraprofessional position had opened up at the elementary school she worked at.

“I talked myself out of that first job,” Malloree said. “But a few months later another one came open. The job entailed working with kids who were behind in school. Not those with major disabilities, but those who had ADHD and ADD, like me. Again, I talked myself out of the position. But my friend kept bugging me about it. Even as I filled out the application, I was scared out of my mind by the job. I didn’t think I’d get called for an interview, let alone get the position.”

Later on during the same day that Malloree submitted her application, she got a call from the school principal for an interview.

“I was sick to my stomach for days,” she said. “And I didn’t feel like the interview went well because I was so nervous. Finally, at the end of my interview, I opened up. I told my story, about how I had struggled in school and how I knew what these kids were going through. All of the women in my interview were tearing up by the time I was done. The next day, the principal called and offered me the job.”

Taking the paraprofessional position changed Malloree’s life. It also led to her greatest life lesson.

I’ve learned that your misery becomes your ministry,” she said. “I’ve come full circle. I love my job. I feel like I can make a difference in these kids’ lives because of what I went through. This has also been a healing thing for me because I’ve been able to come out and be open with who I am. I’ve gotten a lot more acceptance from people than I thought I would.”

There are many wonderful parts to Malloree’s job, but one of the her favorites is relating to the kids she works with. She lights up when she talks about it.

“Kids see teachers and adults as perfect,” she said. “I’m proof that we’re not. I had a hard time in school. I hated math. I know what they are going through. They can see that, and it makes them feel better about themselves.”

Things you can do:

  • Find a way to make your misery your ministry.
  • Volunteer in an elementary school for a day.
  • Tell your kids about a mistake that you made growing up so they don’t have to make the same mistake.


Check out the Life Advice Blog Project

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>