From Dropout to Doctoral Degree

Stories about hard work and perseverance are uplifting and give hope to others.

While those stories are inspirational, they often focus on only one side of the story—the student.

As a student, I was a diamond in the rough, but the other side of the story is that I owe my success to a nontraditional high school, my high school principal, and a teacher who saved my life.

The odds were against me. I was born into poverty and throughout my elementary years, I changed schools at least twice per year, every year. By eighth grade, I had given up on education; I did not care about grades or school. I started failing classes and, ultimately, ended up repeating eighth grade. I continued to switch schools often, as I jumped back and forth between divorced parents.

During my ninth-grade year, I left home. I met a boy, became pregnant, and my parents no longer welcomed me. Luckily, I moved in with his family and, for once in my life, had a steady home. I continued in school, but faced new obstacles. I was 16 and needed to work to support my family. I was juggling high school, a family, and working 30+ hours a week. In tenth grade, it all became too much for me and I dropped out of high school—lowering my odds of success even more. I was a statistic.

I knew there had to be a better way. I soon learned about an alternative high school for kids just like me. Little did I know this high school and the staff would be my saving grace. The school was located in a portable building and had approximately 20 students, with one principal and four teachers. The “go at your own pace” format allowed students to work and attend school part time. Students completed modules to obtain a basic high school diploma.

The staff made the high school effective. Mr. Finley, our principal, provided moral support and words of wisdom to build our confidence. He helped find scholarships and encouraged community college. He personally called if we missed school to make sure everything was okay and to offer transportation. He built trusting relationships with the students, and we knew that when times were rough, Mr. Finley would say the right things to help us get over the hump.

Ms. Baker, one of my teachers, excelled in relationship building. She monitored our progress and encouraged with incentives. She stocked the refrigerator with snacks and sodas for us to purchase. When someone earned credit, Ms. Baker rewarded them with a coupon for goodies in the refrigerator. We met with her often to discuss progress and, when students were within one credit required for graduation, Ms. Baker baked a cake to celebrate their success. We were a family at that little school. We counted on Mr. Finley and Ms. Baker for more than just academics; they believed in us when others did not. They offered kindness, love, and support that made learning enjoyable.

The last time I saw them was a warm May evening when I proudly strutted across the stage in a purple cap and gown as my name was called aloud. I wish they could know that was not the last time I walked across the stage. I strutted across three more times for undergraduate and master’s degrees. In May 2018, I will walk across a stage once again, dressed in velvet regalia as I am awarded a doctoral degree in education. I want Mr. Finley and Ms. Baker to know that without them, this would not have been possible. I am forever grateful for their love and support.

Nicole Koch is a first-grade teacher in Central Texas. She is currently finishing a doctoral degree in educational leadership at the University of Mary Hardin–Baylor. Among her research interests is student preparedness in the 21st-century workforce.

Celebrating Our 2017 Graduates Through Photos

Each spring, KDP staff members organize a photo contest for members to submit their graduation photos on social media (Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram) with the hashtag #KDPgrad and be entered into a drawing for one of five $20 gift certificates to the KDP Store.

This year, because the judges received so many great selfies, candids, and professional portraits as well as stories that accompanied, it was SO difficult a decision to choose only 5. But, rules are rules, so we are recognizing honorable mentions as well. (See the full album on Facebook here).

Below are the winners—in alphabetical order.

Saundra Armstrong

Saundra Armstrong, University of the District of Columbia

“After a career in the federal government and in non-for-profits for 20+ years in administrative positions, I was asked to substitute for two weeks. Needless to say 16 years later I’m still working with young children and have earned a BA with honors.”

Alexis Finch-Priester

Alexis Finch-Priester, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

“I started college heading in the nursing track. Throughout my high school years I’ve always had a job where I was working with children, and I continued while in college. During my first year of college a found a job in the local school system and LOVED what I was doing. I just knew that this was the job for me. Being a first generation college student I was a bit hesitant to explain to my family that I was going to be changing my major. I knew I was making the right decision. Without even noticing I had become an advocate for education. I realized my true passion for leading children, making every little moment teachable. I never thought that I would be graduating with an education degree but I am so excited that I get to call myself an educator. I’m so glad that I get to make a positive impact in the lives of children the way so many of my teachers did. I know this job will be rewarding in so many ways and I can’t wait to have my own classroom.”

Malia Rivera

Malia Rivera, James Madison University

“When I was in 8th grade, I had a teacher tell me I wasn’t good at math and I’d never be good. Later in High School I came to the realization that my teacher was very wrong, I was good at math! All I needed was a teacher who believed in my success. Since then, I have been determined to become a secondary math teacher. My journey to becoming a teacher has lead me on a mission to get rid of the mindset of “I can’t do that, I’m not good at math” that many students have. All it takes is one great teacher that believes in them, and I plan on being that teacher.”

Michael Williams

Michael Williams, Georgia State University

“I grew up in poverty and lost my mother at a young age. Growing up, teachers were there for me when I needed them the most. I experienced first-hand how much impact an educator can have on a child’s life. I dropped out of high school in 10th grade for no good reason. If it weren’t for some of my close family and my teachers, I am not sure I would have returned to school and completed my high school diploma. My teachers pushed me to apply for colleges and did everything they could to help me out. After spending two years at a smaller college, I transferred to Georgia State University where I just graduated summa cum laude with my Bachelors of Science in Middle-Level Education with concentrations in language arts, social science, and special education general curriculum. I also completed a minor in special education: high incidence disabilities. I’ll be working through the summer as a 7th-grade social science teacher in Atlanta, GA and will officially begin my teaching career as an 8th-grade Georgia History teacher in Gwinnett County Public Schools for the 2017-2018 school year.”

Kathy Zhao

Kathy Zhao, Stevenson University

“I have always loved working with children since I was 12 years old. I started with babysitting, then in the summer I was a camp counselor, and later worked at a daycare. From there I feel in love and I wanted to pursue my dream of becoming a teacher. I believe that teachers are the foundation. My senior year of college, I loved every moment of student teaching and I knew right away that teaching will be my passion. I loved seeing my student’s eyes light up when they understand something they learned. I want to be apart and touch many children’s lives.”


And these are our honorable mentions (in alphabetical order)…

Sierra Becker

Sierra Becker, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater (for Best Mortar Board)

“I have always had a caring, passionate personality. Throughout my college career I have dabbled in various career paths; however, I always wandered back to teaching. Once I transferred to UW-Whitewater I dove head first into everything I needed to do in order to excel as a secondary educator. Even with an accident last fall that has postponed my student teaching, I have stayed resilient with my career path. From that, and through the resources that KDP has offered me, I have found a multitude of opportunities to continue my career in the teaching field and continue my service educating our youth!”

Ursula Bryant

Ursula Bryant, University of Saint Thomas-Houston (for Most Inspirational Story)

“I was a teen mom, didn’t get a high school diploma. At 21 I received my GED. I was a single stay at home mother with two children who were disabled. After my son died in 1997, I started school, receiving my degree in teaching at the age of 40. After teaching ten years, I returned for my master’s in school counseling, which I’ve graduated with May 20, 2017.”

Audre Cantrell

Audre Cantrell, Northeastern State University (for Best Action Shot)

“I started my journey by volunteering with Community Action Project in Tulsa, OK (CAP Tulsa). It is an early childhood program for low income families. The program provides early childhood education to the child as well as before and after care. The program also helps the family find work, extra food, and clothing. The mission of CAP Tulsa is to pull the whole family out of poverty. I have been working with the program for the past three summers (first as a volunteer and twice as a part time teacher assistant). Because of this experience, I was motivated to go back to school to receive my Early Childhood Education degree. I have been offered and accepted a lead teacher position in a three year old classroom with CAP Tulsa. I am so excited to share my love for learning and play with my students. Education is a powerful tool to have in life. I want to inspire my students to continue to learn and to become a lifelong learner.”

2017 #KDPgrad with Pride Photo Contest – Now Open!

KDPgrad

Are you a senior or grad student who is graduating this spring or graduated in December?

First of all, congratulations! We are proud of you and wish you the very best as you job search and start your teaching career.

We know you must be proud of yourself and your achievements, too—and took (or will take) photos of yourself in your cap and gown with your KDP cords, stole, and/or medallion.

Share one or two of your favorite pictures of yourself on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram using the hashtag #KDPGrad as a first step to entering our annual KDP Graduate with Pride photo contest.

To complete your entry, go to http://www.kdp.org/gradwithpridecontest.php to answer a quick survey so we know who you are and a couple of sentences about your journey to become a teacher.

All completed entries will be entered into a drawing to win 1 of 5 $20 gift certificates to the KDP Store.

Pictures will be placed in an album on KDP’s Facebook page. One way to win is to share the photo(s) from our page and/or ask your friends and family members to “like” your photo for a chance to win the most “likes.”

Eligible participants are members who graduated in December 2016 or are graduating this spring semester. The contest deadline is June 16, after which winners will be selected.

Good luck! We’ll be looking for your picture soon!

2016 Winners of the #KDPGrad Photo Contest

A teacher, a Falcon, and a Kadelpian for life.

A few weeks ago, the Dean of the College of Education and Human Development, Dr. Dawn Shinew, contacted me and asked if Kappa Delta Pi members would be interested in meeting Muriel Hutchinson Strebe and honoring her at a Classroom Dedication ceremony.

After some inquiring, I learned that Mrs. Strebe was a successful elementary school teacher and had made Bowling Green State University the beneficiary in her estate plan as well as established the Muriel Hutchinson Strebe Scholarship for students entering the College of Education. So, naturally, I agreed, looking for any opportunity to demonstrate Kappa Delta Pi’s support of fellow educators.

After rallying the KDP members that were available during the day on a Friday, we made our way to a personal meet and greet with Mrs. Strebe, taking our seats at a round conference table on the fourth floor of the Education Building, waiting for this generous woman who was being honored throughout the College of Education.

Then she walks in.

Muriel Strebe.

Dressed in orange with a large golden medal hanging around her neck.

Helping her in is Dean Shinew, along with the college assistants who have been with her the whole day. She smiles at us and laughs, explaining that golden medal meant that she was a “Golden Falcon,” an award she won for being an involved alumnus.

She is remarkable, so excited to talk to fellow education students—students to whom she has given so much.

14457321_1659164627728061_5365316323270890690_nAfter she sits down, I introduce myself and tell her that I am President of our campus chapter of Kappa Delta Pi.

She said, “Yes, I was a part of this chapter when I went to school here.” I look at her, astonished, and then I look at the dean. I couldn’t believe it. This incredibly gracious woman was a part of OUR chapter. The Delta Phi Chapter! I was so excited. No one in this room knew that she was a member of Kappa Delta Pi before that moment.

I motioned for the next KDP members to introduce themselves, while I scanned my mind for ways to recognize this woman as a KDP member.

“The Binder!” I thought.

The Chapter binder that every KDP initiate has signed for decades. Her name was probably in it! What better way to welcome her home than by showing her the binder she signed more than 65 years ago.

I excused myself from the conference room and ran across campus to get it. It was in our KDP office, only 5 minutes away.

I unlocked the cabinet and went to the very back of the binder. Loose-leaf papers were ripped and aged, with some barely hanging on in the binder. I saw that the pages went back only to 1958, and so the years 1958 down to 1947 were either never documented or were missing. I knew our chapter was more than 75 years old, so Muriel Hutchinson Strebe would more than likely have been initiated her freshman year.

It saddened me that I couldn’t present to her the initiation page she signed so long ago. It was time to be creative and find a way to honor this remarkable woman through Kappa Delta Pi.

Then I see them, the blank certificates in the cabinet. Maybe I could re-initiate Mrs. Strebe and honor her a second time. I knew she was worthy of it, for who better exemplified the words of the Kappa Delta Pi creed?

Mrs. Strebe has lived the ideals of Fidelity to Humanity, Science, Service, and Toil. She has inspired and strengthened others and is the essence of Knowledge, Duty, and Power.

I grabbed the binder, a blank certificate, and a creed. I quickly walked back to the conference room, knowing exactly what I was going to do.

I entered the room while the members were wrapping up their introductions. I looked at Mrs. Strebe and told her that our records had been misplaced, and I couldn’t find her signature—but, if she would be okay with it, I would like to re-initiate her so she can be added to our binder.

She laughed and said that she would be honored!

I placed the binder on the table and read a small portion of our ceremony ritual.

14441184_1659164567728067_1479710292263504065_nI then handed her a pen, and she signed our Society Charter for a second time.

We all clapped after she signed, and I held her hand, thanking her for agreeing to sign our book and be a part of the Kappa Delta Pi Class of 2016.

While she was in another meeting, I went to our Technology Resource Center and printed a fresh Kappa Delta Pi certificate with her name and the date on it. When I saw her after the classroom dedication, I gave her the folder with the certificate and the creed.

I thanked her for everything she has done for education students and asked if we could take a picture with her.

This picture includes Kappa Delta Pi members old and new, as well as Freddie and Frieda Falcon, with Muriel Hutchinson Strebe in the center.

This picture includes Kappa Delta Pi members old and new, as well as Freddie and Frieda Falcon, with Muriel Hutchinson Strebe in the center.

A teacher, a Falcon, and a Kadelpian for life.

Kristen Tabesh is a 4th year student at Bowling Green State University and the President of the Delta Phi Chapter of KDP. She is a Middle Childhood Education major with concentrations in Language Arts/Reading and Social Studies. Kristen has wanted to be a teacher for as long as she can remember, and she absolutely cannot wait to have a classroom of her own.

Read more of this story on the Bowling Green State University page.

Teaching World Language Like a Boss

gardnerangela-017-hiresAngela Gardner, a Spanish teacher at Ross High School in Hamilton, Ohio, is the latest recipient of the Teacher of Honor Award from Kappa Delta Pi (KDP), International Honor Society in Education. Gardner joins a select group of educators who have been recognized with this honor.

Since 2007, Gardner has taught Spanish language classes for Levels I–IV as well as a Spanish culture class at Ross High School. In addition to teaching, she has held several other roles in the school: sponsor or chairperson for numerous committees and clubs, mentor teacher, athletic coach, and cooperating teacher for student teaching placements, among others. In spring 2016, Gardner also served as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Miami University (OH).

Principal of Ross High School, Brian Martin, lauds Gardner for the positive impact she makes on the lives of her students and on the school itself. “Angela has been a key cog in the success of our Foreign Language department as well as facilitating our Volunteer Advisory Board,” Martin said.

“She has the necessary skills and attitude to make a difference in the lives of students and teachers. She has strong leadership skills and the ability to build rapport with students, parents, and colleagues.”

In her teaching, Gardner integrates her dedication to the surrounding community within her lessons. Her success in applying for grants has facilitated projects that immerse students in the Spanish language while they interact positively with the community: making and delivering enchiladas to local residents, donating items to a food pantry, making dolls for a local children’s hospital, and visiting a local elementary school to perform puppet shows and play games—all while speaking Spanish.

One of Gardner’s former students, Melody Conrad, offered that Gardner “is a valuable educator, reaching out to improve the school and community experience. Even within the classroom, she found ways for students to help the community.” In her role as Volunteer Advisory Board sponsor at Ross High School, Gardner has been recognized with a Community Service Coordinator Recognition Award by the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission and the Mayerson Foundation. Also, she received the Golden Apple Award for Teaching Excellence by the Roanoke County (VA) Public Schools Education Foundation.

Gardner has presented at multiple professional conferences and written several published journal articles. She authored the book Teach World Language Like a Boss (Carlex) in 2014. She received a master’s degree in Teaching from Grand Canyon University and a bachelor’s degree in Modern Languages/Spanish from Longwood University. She taught previously at schools in Virginia (2004–2007).

Kappa Delta Pi established the Teacher of Honor award in 2008. To earn this designation, an educator must have more than 3 years of classroom teaching experience; demonstrate a commitment to integrity and high standards in the classroom; and submit evidence of professional development, leadership, community service, and exceptional contributions to the education profession. The award recognizes teachers of all levels, from early childhood instructors to university faculty members. To learn more about the designation, go to http://www.kdp.org/recognition/teacherofhonor.php.

A Source of Inspiration and Leadership – National Student Teacher of the Year

McKennaDunnOn behalf of Kappa Delta Pi (KDP) and the Association for Teacher Educators (ATE), I am honored to introduce McKenna Dunn, our 2016 KDP/ATE National Student Teacher/Intern of the Year.

McKenna graduated summa cum laude in 2016 from St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. She majored in Spanish Language Arts and Reading, and she minored in Teacher Education. McKenna was valedictorian of the 2016 class and was a member of the Alpha Gamma Phi Chapter of Kappa Delta Pi, International Honor Society in Education. She currently lives in New Zealand, where she volunteers at local schools.

McKenna has been described by her professor and honors thesis advisor, Dr. Katie Peterson, as “a source of inspiration and leadership” for her classmates. Peterson continues, “McKenna also demonstrated a remarkable ability to innovate teaching practices so that she met the needs of individual learners. The passion and care that she uses to deliver curriculum makes her students feel comfortable to take risks creating environments where students are able to explore concepts and ideas in developmentally appropriate ways.”

Selected from a competitive applicant pool, the award selection committee praised McKenna’s student engagement, energy, and composure and said her project epitomized what they are looking for in an exceptional student teacher.

In sharing the news of this achievement, McKenna wrote:

“Being chosen as the national student teacher of the year is an extremely humbling honor. To know that a group of such experienced and talented educators chose me validates that I have definitely made the right decision to pursue teaching as my career path.”

KDP and ATE congratulate McKenna and wish her well as she begins her first year as a practicing educator. She will be honored at an upcoming ATE conference with a $1500 award and the opportunity to address the conference attendees.

If you or someone you know will be student teaching or interning this academic year, I encourage you to learn more about the KDP/ATE National Student Teacher/Intern of the Year Award. Applications are due by June 15, 2017.

The author of this blog, Susan Perry, is the Director of Advancement for Kappa Delta Pi.

Two Books Are Better Than One

The initiates, officers, and members of the Delta Rho Chapter of Kappa Delta Pi at Kean University were pleased to support the needs of elementary students in a public school setting with 601 books that were given to them on Read Across America Day. IMG_7574

Our chapter held a book drive throughout the Fall 2015 semester to collect these books. In February, we started by hosting a Literacy Alive! social event. This was a great way to prepare for our project and have everyone get to know each other in a comfortable setting. At the event, members, initiates, and officers created bookmarks for the students, and created bags with bookmarks and pencils to go with the theme of Dr. Seuss.

IMG_7575To celebrate Read Across America Day, Delta Rho visited Menlo Park Terrace School #19 for the day. The books were delivered, and the students received their gift bags. Some officers and members dressed up as Dr. Seuss characters to add to the spirit of the day. All who attended read a book to an elementary classroom and visited various grades throughout the building.

The second part of the project supported the needs of children and young adults at the children’s hospital who are undergoing cancer treatments. The hospital restricts paper books, so the children read books on iPads. These children need funding for purchasing books. Our project supported their needs through an iTunes gift card so they will be able to purchase books to read while they receive their treatments. Our project supported the non-medical needs of these children and they families.

Our chapter was recognized by the faculty and principal at Menlo Park Terrace School # 19 as well as the director of Embrace Kids Foundation.

This was truly an experience for our chapter, as it was the largest scaled project for literacy in chapter history.

IMG_7576The members, initiates, and officers gained experience in the areas of service, networking, and experience being in the classroom. The communities that were served—although different—were immersed in the love for learning and reading all Kadelpians have and show. Delta Rho is proud of Two Books are Better than One, and we are excited to receive the silver award for it.

The real reward, however, was knowing how many children and youth we touched in both communities through our project.

Guest blogger, Leana Malinowsky, is a first grade teacher at Pvt. Nicholas Minue School in Cateret, NJ, where she teaches the inclusion class. She is also a certified Reading Specialist. Leana is the Associate Counselor of the Delta Rho Chapter at Kean University, and she has been an active member since 2007—over 9 years!