As a 9-1-1 call taker and police dispatcher, Anna Wilke hears about terrible
things every day—and she has a hard time explaining them to her friends and
family. But that hasn’t stifled this homeschool grad’s passion for
helping people. Hear Anna’s story today on Homeschool Heartbeat.
Mike Smith: My guest today is Anna Wilke. She’s a
homeschool graduate who works as a 9-1-1 call taker and police dispatcher.
Anna, it’s great to have you on the show today.
Anna Wilke: Thank you for having me.
A passion for justice [0:33]
Mike: Anna, you originally wanted to be a police officer. So
how did you end up as a police dispatcher?
Anna: Well, I got involved with the program called Police
Explorers, and they basically introduce you to the world of law enforcement and all
the pieces there. And when I was graduating from college I figured that I’d
apply for everything and I applied for jail jobs, and dispatch, and police jobs. And
I figured God’s got a plan; He knew where I needed to be. And I took the first
job I was offered, and that was dispatching.
Mike: Anna, what inspired you to help people in this
Anna: I have always really had a super strong sense of right
and wrong and justice and black and white and I wanted to help people ever since I
was little. I wanted to be a teacher, I wanted to work with service jobs, and the
police. And so I knew I’d be in this kind of a field, but this is just what I
was called into and I love it.
No such thing as a normal day [1:22]
Mike: Anna, what does a normal day on the job look like for
Anna: That’s the fun of our job: we don’t really
have a normal day. I could either be answering 9-1-1 lines: so, we get calls for
service—anything from a cow in the roadway to someone with a gun.
Or we could be working a police radio and that’s kind of—the easiest
way to describe it is if you’re at a crash and a tow truck just magically shows
up. You want to know how it magically gets there? It’s not magic, it’s
dispatch. We do all the behind-the-scenes stuff, we get traffic lights going, or
whatever our police officers need us to do—we do it, and we help them out.
Mike: Well, let me ask you this: How does working there and what
you do influence the way you look at people or maybe the way you look at the
Anna: Well, I’ve always been an optimist and I was
told from day one I’m going to be jaded. And I guess four years in, I’m
not 100 percent jaded, but I definitely see people differently. I don’t really
trust people the same way I used to. We know a lot about crime—we deal with it
every day. I know people are crazy, and most people don’t have common sense, so
I guess it’s just [a] different view of the world now.
Mike: Well, now you say most people. Is it possible most of the
people you deal with don’t have common sense?
Anna: The vast majority.
Mike: But you wouldn’t say all of us don’t have
common sense though.
Anna: No, I’d say a good, maybe, 30 percent of people
have some common sense.
Mike: Oh, good. Well you have common sense, right?
“My burden to bear” [2:42]
Mike: Anna, what are some of the biggest challenges you face
as a 9-1-1 call taker and police dispatcher?
Anna: Well, there’s kind of two sides to it. On the
job itself, some of the hardest stuff is things like people who don’t know
their addresses, people who are arguing with us—they swear at us, they get
angry with us.
I think the hardest part, though, is just the emotional side of it for us because
people don’t get it. When I first started working there, my friends and family
were asking me to tell them stories and the funny stuff that happens, and I
don’t even want my friends and family to know. It’s not always a happy
thing. They live in a happy world and I want them to stay that way. I feel like
it’s kind of my burden to bear and that’s what I do. So people just
don’t understand; that’s probably the hardest part of the job.
Mike: True. Do you get a lot of domestic relations calls?
Anna: We do, yeah—those are hard ones for us to
handle, for sure.
Mike: I suppose you don’t actually get involved in
counseling people with the 9-1-1 call, do you?
Anna: No, we just tell them to do what they have to do to
keep themselves safe and that’s pretty much our line.
Mike: Okay, so your job really is to get the police out there to
intervene in the thing.
Anna: Yes, exactly, we just want to get help as quickly as
Can’t take it home [3:48]
Mike: Anna, how have you been able to make a difference in the
lives of people you talk to?
Anna: There are definitely little things. Like our
callers—we get dogs home who are lost, we get people put in jail who need to be
I think that my favorite part of my job is working with the police officers. And
my goal is to let each one of my guys know that they matter and that I care that they
come home and that they come back the next day. There is kind of a high rate of
police suicides, actually, and I really care that each one of them knows I see them.
I see the good they do, and I really genuinely care about each every one of them.
Mike: Are there any experiences that strike you as particularly
Anna: That’s really hard—I mean we tend to wipe
out our memories at the end of the day. I mean, I just worked an eight-hour shift and
I can’t tell you a single call I dispatched, because we don’t take it
home. But, I mean, I can tell you: crimes with children, I can remember some of
those. I had a guy who wanted to kill himself— he had a gun in his hands and
tried to talk him down. That kind of stuff, but it’s usually the bad stuff that
we remember so we try to block it out if possible.
Mike: Well, how about the guy you were trying to talk out of
committing suicide—were you successful?
Anna: As far as I know. He ended up hanging up on me when he
figured out that I had kept him alive longer than he wanted. So I believe so.
Mike: So as far as you know, he didn’t kill himself. So you
saved his life!
Anna: Yeah, probably.
Mike: Well, thanks for sharing that with us today. That’s
Using your passion to help people [5:12]
Mike: Anna, tell us about your homeschooling experience. How
did being homeschooled prepare you for the type of work you do now?
Anna: I was homeschooled all the way through my senior year,
and then I got involved in a dual enrollment program at my community college. And I
think really the most valuable thing that we learned when we were homeschooled is
just critical thinking, logical thinking, being able to problem-solve—something
my parents were really, really big on.
But the funnier things are things like writing; you don’t think necessarily
about the fact that you need to be able to write. I write reports—I’m a
trainer as well, and I write reports every two weeks for my trainee’s progress.
So being able to write precisely and clearly is really important. Or things like
grammar: we communicate all of our calls through writing—we write it on a
computer. There’s a really big difference between getting a call that says your
mail is being taken (your M-A-I-L) and that your male (M-A-L-E) is being taken.
One’s a kidnapping and one’s a theft. So, if you can’t use your
grammar correctly then you’re going to have some really big confusing scenarios
that could potentially come up. So things like that.
Mike: Well it sounds like you got a good homeschool
background—good training and education.
Anna: Yeah, I loved it.
Mike: So, what would you say to homeschoolers out there today who
want to actually get involved in the kind of service you are [doing] (we call it
public service), or the homeschooling parents who actually want to find opportunities
for their kids?
Anna: I would say that everybody has a passion and you need
to start there. For me it was law enforcement. I also loved dogs so I got involved
with training guide dogs. But whether it’s art or whatever it is that you love
to do, there’s going to be a way to serve your community there is some way you
can give back and get involved in that field. Just figure out what it is you love to
do and go find a way to do it.
Mike: Well, Anna, it truly has been a pleasure getting to
know you this week and getting to talk about what you do. You’re an outstanding
example, quite frankly, of selfless service. So, thank you for sharing with us, and
until next time. I’m Mike Smith.