A Teach For America Love Story

Vineyard Marriage Proposal (1)

How we met: Of course, it depends on whom you ask, but we both agree it was serendipity! The story for both of us begins in Baltimore, Maryland. Both Mike and I were newly selected Teach For America teachers placed in Baltimore. Although neither of us were from anywhere near Maryland (Mike is from Illinois; I am from Florida), we both accepted our TFA offers, packed up our belongings, and became certified to teach elementary school in Maryland. We also both attended Johns Hopkins University to get our masters’ in education. Shockingly, before we met, we never crossed paths in our Hopkins classes or at TFA official events. Even more shockingly, I had no idea that the school where Mike worked was less than a five-minute walk away from the school where I worked. I taught 5th grade at Bay Brook Elementary-Middle, and Mike taught 6th grade at Curtis Bay Elementary-Middle. We even shared many, many mutual TFA friends.

Now the story splits…

Her Story
If you ask me, I say that Mike and I officially met at a “board game” night. Mike and I shared a mutual TFA friend who invited a large group of people over to play board games to de-stress from a crazy school week. Mike and I are both big board game fans, so naturally we went. Mike and I, and others, played Hoopla, and talked very infrequently. I distinctly remember Mike flirting with another girl. Still, I remember leaving the board-game night thinking, “That guy was cute” and I wanted to get to know him better. I kept seeing him out at “Howl at the Moon,” a dueling-piano bar, and I just knew we had a lot in common.

His Story
Mike would say we really met at a “chili cook-off” night, again another event thrown by a different mutual TFA friend. Mike had remembered seeing me at the board game night and came up to talk to me at the cook-off. We struck up a conversation about our mutual love of country music, and Mike took my number.

Before I knew it, we were chatting frequently and Mike invited me to Washington, DC when his childhood best friend came into town. Excited to leave Baltimore and visit DC for a day trip, of course I agreed, and the rest is history. We bonded over cherry blossoms, photography and country music during that trip, and we have been practically inseparable ever since. Because we worked so close to each other (with our schools less than 5 minutes away), Mike would deliver flowers and lunches to my classroom. My students “oohed” and “ahhed,” and I knew Mike was the perfect guy for me.

How he asked: The proposal preparation begins back in July 2014. Mike called Katie’s mother, father and grandparents, asking them if he could come down for a weekend. Although they waited with bated breath, none of them dared to ask Mike why he was going to travel to Florida from Charlottesville without Katie.

Mike then told Katie he had to go to Texas for a special firefighter trainer exam the weekend of August 30th. Although Katie tried to protest, Mike explained he had to go to get his instructor training certificate. Knowing Katie always asks Mike for his flight confirmation, Mike sent Katie his e-mailed confirmation listing his flight information to Texas. Little did Katie know, Mike “Photoshoped” a fake confirmation based on a real flight to Texas so that Katie would have no idea he was visiting her family.

When August 30th arrived, Mike flew down to South Florida without Katie’s knowledge and took Katie’s parents, step-parents, and grandparents to dinner. During dinner, he called Katie’s brother via video call and asked everyone if it would be OK if he asked Katie to marry him. He then told them he planned to ask on a trip to Georgia in October 2014. Katie’s parents and grandparents were excited about the pending proposal, but couldn’t believe they would have to keep their mouths shut for two months until mid-October.

Vineyard Marriage Proposal (2)

The Proposal: Every year on Katie’s birthday Mike has said: “Katie, don’t spoil your birthday by thinking I am going to propose. Just enjoy the day and all the surprises I have planned.” Katie’s 26th birthday was no different–Mike told Katie he had planned fun things to do for her birthday, but Katie should not spoil the day by anticipating a proposal. Mike asked that the day of Katie’s birthday she stop working at 2 p.m. He also asked her to dress in jeans. Katie thought that Mike–as usual–had a great birthday surprise up his sleeve. Little did she know, it was his best surprise ever!

On September 18, after a long day of class at the University of Virginia for Katie and an even longer day of teaching at Red Hill Elementary for Mike, Mike picked Katie up from their apartment. Katie had no idea where they were going. About 30 minutes later, they pulled into Veritas Vineyards and saw horses. Katie and Mike were greeted by the owners of Indian Summer Guide Service (husband-and-wife pair Ashton and Mary), and they told Katie that Mike had planned a private horseback ride through the vineyard for her birthday. Ashton introduced Mike and Katie to their horses, and he described the ride. Katie noticed Mary had a professional camera, but Mary said she needed photos for the company’s website. Trying not to get her hopes up, Katie didn’t think much of the camera and was ready to enjoy a birthday ride.

Katie had taken a dance class a few days before the ride and her knee was bothering her. She didn’t want to complain during the ride, but after about 30 minutes, she told guide-Ashton her knee hurt. Ashton hopped off his horse to fix Katie’s stirrups. Katie didn’t know that Ashton and Mike had discussed a “cue” for Mike to propose when he got off his horse to “fix” our stirrups. Luckily, Mike didn’t hop down off of his horse. The ride continued to the top of the vineyard/mountain. Then, Ashton said he had to “fix” our stirrups again to prepare for the ride down the mountain. Katie and Mike got down off their horses and went to look at the gorgeous view of the mountains and the vineyards.

Katie noticed Mike seemed nervous and she said, “Babe, don’t worry, the ride is almost over, you did a great job!” He said that wasn’t it, and then he got down on one knee to propose. Of course, Katie said yes! Mike told Katie the whole story about planning the proposal, and Mary took more photos of the happy couple. Katie, still in shock, barely remembered the ride down the mountain. At the bottom, one of the winery owners gave Katie and Mike a bottle of Scintilla, and then Katie and Mike went wine tasting in the Veritas tasting room. The evening ended with a six-course dinner at Fleurie, a French restaurant in Charlottesville, and lots of calls and text messages to family and friends!

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Photography by Indian Summer Guide Service

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