My Why - A Deeply Personal Story


Marcelle as a young child

“Our WHY is our purpose, cause or belief—the driving force behind everything we do.  Our HOWs are the actions we take when we are at our natural best to bring our WHY to life.  Our WHATs are the tangible manifestation of our WHY, the actual work we do every day.” Simon Sinek

When I think about my why, my purpose, the reasons for where I am at today, I take myself back to my childhood. While there are many people and events involved in how I came to be where I am today, I am going to do my best to speak about myself and tell my story.

I grew up in a loving home, with my mother and brother, on an Island in the Pacific Northwest. Just about every evening, you could find us enjoying an incredibly delicious home-cooked dinner, together, at the table (and you'd most likely hear some fabulous reggae music playing). Our small town had great schools, one of the top school districts in the State. Most would feel it was a great place to raise a family.

Unfortunately, I never really felt like I fit in to my surroundings. I felt that my personal circumstances were very dissimilar from my peers. Our family unit of three felt different than those around us. I did not always feel that I fit in socially, our family economics were quite different than most of my peers, and the high standards and pressures of academics was something I never felt I measured up to. As you could imagine, I had several mixed feelings about where I was growing up; some positive and others quite tough. 

I have had a lot of time to reflect back on my childhood; gaining insight in to my own personal shortcomings in emotional awareness skills. I mostly kept my emotions inside, let them fester, and just carried on. During my refections, I had another "aha" - to my surprise and sadness, I do not recall having a teacher or counselor come to my aid, support me, ask me how I was feeling, engage in any dialogue around emotions, or even simply check in on me. This is absolutely not a dig on my teachers or the staff, I just felt that academics were number one in our schools. It’s time to swing this narrative in a new direction. In my opinion, and much of the research out there today, the most important piece for our children is their social emotional well-being and mental health - then the academics can come. 

While I may not have found my confidence in those four walls of the school building, I did have a place where I felt confident and myself - it was on the dance floor. I was a ballet dancer, traveling 4 days a week, 2 hours roundtrip, to the studio for classes. I absolutely loved my ballet days, it was my safe place.

During highschool (and probably in middle school), everyone talked about college; that's what you were expected to do where I grew up. I was not well versed on the application process, nor was I in a position to go on college tour visits. I went ahead and applied for two schools - Washington State University and The University of Arizona. I am proud to say that I got accepted to both.  At that point in time, I was adamant, I knew what I wanted for my future. I chose to attend the University of Arizona for their elementary education, psychology, and dance programs. I completed courses in all three of theses areas, just as I set out to do! I graduated with an elementary education degree with a substantial amount of credits in psychology and dance. My college years brought me another incredible piece of my life, I met the man that I would eventually marry. Here we are, 23 years later, married for 15.5 years, two children, one dog, and a fulfilling life!

The next part of my story is very personal, but I know it's a large part of who I am and another addition to my 'why.' Not long after graduating college, at 23 years old, I suffered a stroke. I won't get in to all the medical details - but rather why I am sharing this with you. If anyone out there has ever felt so defeated by something, and you think you cannot recover, let me be the first to tell you that you can! It takes strength, resilience, hard work, and a support system. I am so grateful to those that supported me through an extremely difficult time, especially my "nurse" mother. Physical therapy, blood tests, heart tests, more and more tests and appointments. With all of this, I reflect back, and one thing continues to strike me again, I never really had a handle on expressing how I felt through all of this tough stuff. The reason I bring this up is because it is another piece to my 'why.' My own personal lack in understanding and expressing my own emotions and failing to have the words to communicate my feelings, are all aspects that I have had to work hard on as an adult. Why should we wait until we are adults to figure this out? Our children ought to be learning these vital skills from the start. This is why it's important to me to educate on emotional skills - and it would eventually bring me to creating tools to support children from an early age and create a new narrative.

When I was able to return to the workplace, I began my teaching career in the very school district that I grew up in!  I wanted to get back in there and be the teacher that saw my students, the educator that saw the "Marcelle's" that felt they did not fit in, that did not have the confidence to speak up or ask for help, that felt less than because they did not have the same economics or academic abilities, I wanted to get in there and make an impact.

Teaching kindergarten, gave me a beautiful opportunity to be the very first elementary teacher in these students' lives. My goal was to give them a love for school, a love of learning, while guiding them socially, emotionally and academically. It was evident from the very start that social and emotional learning skills were going to be my number one focus with my students. While we did not have a specific social emotional curriculum, I created my own lessons with puppets, stuffed dolls, daily journal writing, read aloud stories, A-Z feelings book (a year-long project created by each student), and brought in some incredible guest speakers. I continued to study research papers and read books to grow my knowledge and skills. As an additional bonus, our school held the District Autism Spectrum Program. This gave me a beautiful opportunity to learn new techniques and understand new ways to teach ALL kids. My teaching evolved, it changed for the better, I changed, and my confidence as an educator grew. This was my place, I felt proud within these school walls - a very different feeling than growing up in the same four walls. My self-created toolkit for social emotional learning skills was my treasure trove and I was impacting my students each and every day.

Years went by, and the positive feelings kept on and I continued to grow as an educator...and so did my belly - I became a mom to two beautiful children, Stella and Jack. After a couple of years, my husband and I decided it was time for me to be home with our kids. Although, my time at home was not for long! Just a couple of years later, I had the wonderful opportunity to head back in to the classroom  when I was offered the lead teacher position at my son's preschool. Being your own child's teacher is quite a special experience. When I began at the preschool, I implemented additional social emotional resources, tools, and curriculum pieces. The tried and true social-emotional learning activities that I created with my kindergarteners, were now being used with my preschoolers. When my son graduated from preschool, I graduated as well! He ventured off to Kindergarten, my daughter was in second grade, and I was ready to begin building from my passion and creating something special from my 'why'...

FeelLinks was born. 

FeelLinks mission is to strengthen children's social-emotional connections and confidence. It's purpose it to give tools, education, and skills to parents, caregivers, educators - anyone, to successfully support the children in their lives. 

FeelLinks was created by the same little girl who felt so many emotions, but did not understand them or express them very well. The girl who felt a lack of confidence. The girl who did not feel like she fit it. The woman who overcame a big medical scare and had strength to recover. The woman who wanted to make an impact on kids and be absolutely sure to seek the ones that needed some extra support. The woman who became a wife and mother.

My 'why' sits in all that I am today - a mom, wife, daughter, sister, educator, friend, and colleague. These roles have driven my passion for the health and well-being of the next generation. While I continue to feel great concern for the staggering numbers of depression, anxiety, behavior concerns and troubles in school - I have hope that we will support the next generation to have greater self-awareness, strong social skills, empathy, self-compassion, compassion for others, strong relationships, flexibility, attainable goals, leadership and teamwork skills. I want to see a world that is kinder, more compassionate, and always inclusive! 

I continue to educate myself with research, books, and classes. I listen to the struggles of parents in my community and beyond. These are all significant motivators in driving my passion even stronger. This is why FeelLinks began with the creation of hands-on tools including a feelings journal and emotion plush dolls. FeelLinks has now expanded to include: free resources, parent and community courses, podcasts, Parenting Upstream Youtube Channel, and more.

I will continue to put my heart and soul in to my passion business. I hope that you will follow along, share, learn, ponder, ask questions and educate others, and continue on this journey with me.

Thank you for hearing a small glimpse of my WHY and HOW I have brought it to life.

With deep gratitude -

Marcelle Waldman

1 comment

  • I resonate with your story in so many ways and appreciate you sharing it with me many months ago when we spoke on the phone and now again reading it here today. Isn’t it wonderful how out of challenge and struggle our greatest passions can be born. Who better to educate others than someone who knows the material inside and out, with all its ups and downs. Keep doing what you’re doing!

    Tasha Brown

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