There’s a Chinese proverb that states, “Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.” Throughout my life, education has been a cornerstone of my experience, and using my gifts to change the lives of others has given me an immeasurable sense of purpose and joy. Whether you’re looking to become an educator yourself or you’re curious about my journey, I’d love to share with you how I got into the field of education.
Inspired to Educate
Even as a kid, I was always playing school. I grew up on a farmette in the outskirts of the Chicago suburbs, and my superpowers include being a diligent helper and listener. I was a creative, caring child with a “spidey sense” for as long as I can ever remember. I was always rounding up friends to host pretend school, all the while loving my own time learning in the classroom.
While growing up, I got to know someone who was deaf and had Down’s Syndrome. I felt called to learn more about the special education field, and in high school, I worked for a special education organization in many settings, like respite care, after-school volunteer sites, and summer camps. While my friends lathered on the sunscreen and built their summer tans, I found my passion elsewhere, transporting children with special needs all over town.
This work quickly became a passion for me. It became ingrained with my identity, teaching me about care and dedication, and instilling me with great meaning. Inclusivity has always been one of my core values, and with this work, I became even more inspired to follow the call to continue work in advocacy and education.
My Education Degree Path
I went to Indiana University to pursue a degree in Special Education. This was one of the few programs of its kind since new disability laws were passed in 1975. Like Public Law 94-142, also known as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EAHCA). This law was life changing, and guaranteed a “free, appropriate public education” to all children and young adults from ages three to 21.
This law and my passion for advocacy shaped my whole life. I went on to teach students, primarily those with handicaps due to trauma, abuse, and poverty, in underserved urban areas. The work I did was special and touched my heart every single day.
In my early career, I struggled with some challenges that face many teachers, namely isolation. I went back to school to receive my Masters in Education in Curriculum and Instruction, which focused on being student-centered. This involved a ton of early research on democratic schools, self-esteem, and social-emotional learning. In this program, I placed my focus on collaborative environments and learned the importance of self-reflection as well as banding together to move through any tough times in the field. I began a powerful dialogue with other teachers and really started to expand and define my teaching philosophy. Throughout the program, I learned about myself as a teacher and as a learner, and I never quite looked at a classroom the same way again. It’s amazing to see this collaborative life now in my work at Grasshopper come full circle. It’s always about bringing people together.
After everything I’d learned, I wanted to share it with the world. So I transitioned to teaching other educators in the field through my work all those years. I then went on to get my doctoral degree in Instructional Leadership with a focus on Educational Leadership.
Forever an Educator
I’ve been teaching at National-Louis University since 1992, where I’ve taught and coordinated with the Elementary Education, Special Education, and Master of Arts in Education and Teaching, Learning, and Assessment departments. Currently, I’m the Chair and professor for the new Learning Sciences in Education Department. We are all about the “hows and whys” of learning. I’m passionate about areas including collaborative processes, constructivist teaching, teacher wellness, service learning, and cross-cultural education—to name just a few!
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