Tai Zimmerman Cole – Class of 1998
Program Manager and Curriculum Developer for the Center for the Study and Promotion of Communities, Families, and Children, College of Social Work, Florida State University; Clinical Counselor for Children, Tallahassee, Florida

It does not seem like almost 25 years have passed since graduating from East Burke High School. In those years, my life and profession have taken a winding journey leading me back to education and the lessons I learned in Mr. Henne's psychology class at East Burke. As my journey has taken the twists and turns in life, a guiding principle has come from the Frederick Buechner quote, “Your vocation in life is where your greatest joy meets the world's greatest need.”

Now I work as a Program Manager and Curriculum Developer for the Center for the Study and Promotion of Communities, Families, and Children at Florida State University's College of Social Work and have a clinical practice as a children's counselor specializing in working with children who have experienced trauma.

My journey began after graduation where I took all the lessons learned from my time at East Burke with me. The first stop was in Raleigh, NC, where I attended North Carolina State University and graduated with a Bachelor of Art in Religious Studies. From there, I attended Union Theological Seminary and Presbyterian School of Christian Education in Charlotte, obtaining a Master of Divinity in 2007 and a Master in Christian Education in 2009. I was ordained as Minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA) in 2008, traveling through various places as I served congregations in North Carolina, South Carolina, Illinois, and Florida.

From 2002 to 2019, I served congregations as a Christian Educator and later as an Associate Pastor and Executive Pastor. During my early 30's as I worked with families in the church navigate rocky roads in their lives, my own path forward was detoured after experiencing traumatic events. Ultimately, these events and the detour led me back to school, this time seeking my master’s in social work from the College of Social Work at Florida State University. One part of the course work is to complete a field placement. I chose to merge my love of education and working with children with the knowledge gained in the program by working with preschoolers and creating a curriculum for social-emotional learning based in cognitive behavior therapy, art therapy, and play therapy.

I never dreamed that once the curriculum was completed, I would then begin working for the College of Social Work. The Rebound and Recovery curriculum was adopted by the CFC Center and adapted to become a professional certification for early educators. Since its release in July 2021, the Rebound and Recovery professional certification and curriculum have been implemented in classrooms, schools, and school districts throughout Florida and the surrounding states. Recently, I received news that it is being implemented in counseling practices in California, schools in Africa, and by the National Children's Hospital in Washington, DC.

It is incredible to see how my love of education that was instilled in me as a student at East Burke by teachers like Ruth Thomas, George Henne, Judie Anthony, Lynda Massengill, and countless others has evolved over the years and throughout my journey.

The next steps for Rebound and Recovery will begin this spring as I start writing a teen version of Rebound and Recovery to work with adolescents who have experienced trauma, particularly after the pandemic.

For my own sense of calling, I felt my educational journey is not yet complete, so starting in May of 2022, I will begin the Ph.D. program in the College of Education at Florida State University for Curriculum Development with children and children with special needs, thus carrying the lessons I learn with me and passing them along to others as they navigate their own paths.

For More Info About The Center for the Study and Promotion of Communities, Families, and Children:

Published March 2022

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