During my senior year of high school, I knew that I wanted to become a Special Education teacher and I figured that out through a great program called Best Buddies. I knew that I wanted to give back and become more involved, so I decided to join a club. I joined Best Buddies and absolutely loved it. I became a one-on-one peer buddy with a student with Down Syndrome and had the best time. I eventually became president of the club and a teacher’s aid for the Special Education teacher. By the end of my senior year, I realized that even though I joined the club to give back, I got way more out of it than I ever imagined.
When it came time to apply for college, I wanted to go away to school more than anything. I am a social person that loves to experience new things. I love change! I did not want to go to our local university and live at home but that’s what I decided to do because I thought I was making a smart financial decision by staying home. I liked college but I did not apply myself. High school came easy and I never studied. I quickly realized when I got to college that I was going to have to learn how to study. My college was a commuter school. Most of the students went to class and went home. I decided to join a sorority to meet some new people and I had a lot of fun. I also met some lifelong friends that I still keep in contact with. It was so interesting to me to meet friends at that age because you pick people that you click with or have a lot in common with. One isn’t better than the other, but it’s different than being friends because you’ve known each other for forever.
Anyway, I did not do that well in college as far as academics are concerned. I did not apply myself and I was never excited about it because I wanted to go away to school so bad. I guess I just always felt like I was missing out despite having a great time in my sorority. I wasn’t too worried about my grades because C’s get degrees, right? WRONG… kinda. C’s will get you a degree but they will not help you get into grad school. At the time, I thought I am never going back to school. I got my Bachelor’s degree and that’s good enough. However, when I moved to Arkansas I was going to have to teach middle school for two years before I would be able to teach Special Education. Well, I’ve never wanted to teach anything else besides Special Education, except maybe Kindergarten because they’re so cute at that age. When the Special Education teacher retired, a new program became available. If I went to school to get my Master’s in Special Education, I would be able to teach Special Education starting that Fall, which was only a couple of months away.
There were only two schools in the state that had started this new program. The first school I contacted said that my GPA was .09 away from the required minimum GPA, so I was out of luck. I literally felt like someone slammed the door in my face. I was so anxious knowing I only had one chance left and they would most likely tell me the same thing as the first school. The second school I contacted actually listened to my story. I explained to her that I didn’t apply myself during my undergrad and despite my low GPA, I earned A’s in the three Special Education classes my college did offer. I told her that I had wanted to become a Special Education teacher since I was in high school and I knew I would succeed if I was given a chance. I also told her that I had a job waiting for me if I could get accepted into this program. She said she needed to talk to the dean but she was pretty confident they could figure something out.
Later that week, I got a call saying, “Okay, I talked to the dean and if you take four undergraduate classes this summer and earn all A’s as well as taking the MAT, the Praxis Core, and the Special Education Praxis, you can be accepted into the program.” I told her that I would get right on it and I wouldn’t let her down. It was a scramble to try to enroll in four undergraduate classes that I hadn’t already taken because there were maybe two weeks until the summer semesters started. Long story short, I took the tests and earned A’s in all four of my undergrad classes and passed the tests. During Summer II, I took my first two Master’s level classes and got A’s in both of those classes. That Fall, I started my job as a Special Education teacher and a year and a half after that I graduated with my Master’s Degree in Special Education maintaining a 4.0 grade point average.
My mother in law came out for my graduation, which was great! Andrew, my mother in law, and Oakley finally got to meet my professor I had been raving about for the past year and a half. It’s crazy to think that even though it was an all online program, she was my favorite professor I’ve ever had. It was the first time I felt like I was more than a number. I truly had a great experience at Henderson State University!
My point of this story is, sometimes all it takes is one person to believe in someone for them to believe in themselves. During that first phone call, my professor didn’t know anything about me. She had no idea who I was or what type of person I was and she could have easily told me no like the first school. Because my professor believed in me and gave me a chance, I believed in myself and I’m not sure she’ll ever realize what an impact she’s made in my life. I used to think I would never go back to school and now there are days when I contemplate getting my doctorate. I also couldn’t have done any of this without Andrew. He was another person that never questioned if I was going to be able to do it, especially that first summer when I had to take 6 classes. When I would get stressed out, he would ask how he could help or just encourage me and remind me how far I had come. I hope this story encourages you to believe in yourself or to believe in someone else and know that you’re capable of whatever you set your mind to. I also hope that I can make an impact in my students’ lives like my professor did for me.