Category: Alumni (page 1 of 5)

Alumni Spotlight: Justine Litzko, M.A. School Counseling, ’15

What is your name, which degree did you earn, & what year did you graduate?

My name is Justine Litzko. I graduated from Gonzaga University in 2015 with my Master’s Degree in School Counseling.

What is your current occupation or role?

I am the school counselor at Twin Lakes Elementary in Rathdrum, Idaho. This is my third year at Twin Lakes, and I continually feel blessed to be working at this school and in this community.

Why did you choose a program in the School of Education at Gonzaga?

I live in and grew up in North Idaho. When I was looking at graduate schools for school counseling degrees, I wanted to stay in the area.  However, I knew nothing about the local school counseling programs.  At the time, I was working for a local school district.  I started asking around and talking to school counselors and teachers.  When asking about the best program for school counseling degrees, Gonzaga kept coming up- even by professionals who hadn’t attended Gonzaga.  It had, and still has, an amazing academic and extracurricular reputation.  After talking with various professionals, and researching what Gonzaga had to offer, I was extremely excited about the prospect of attending Gonzaga University.

What, or who, influenced you the most at Gonzaga? Please share as much as you are willing.

The school counseling program at Gonzaga utilizes a cohort model. That model was very influential during my time at GU.  The other students in my cohort became my friends and they were individuals I could turn to, bounce ideas off of, and collaborate with during my program.  Even now that we’ve graduated, there have been times we’ve turned to each other for advice.

Another extremely influential person during my time at Gonzaga was the Director of School Counseling, Addy Wissel. I couldn’t have asked for a better person to be my instructor and mentor.  She was a support person through the entire program, helping me to learn and grow.

What was your greatest lesson learned at Gonzaga?

My greatest lesson learned at Gonzaga was that learning does not stop at the completion of the program; rather professional growth, development, and learning continues long after the completion of the program. Because of this mindset, I continually strive to keep up to date on research, techniques, and trends in order to better myself- as an individual and as a counselor.  In addition to this, I’m involved with providing ongoing professional development to staff, so that they can grow professionally, as well.

What is the most rewarding aspect of working in your field? Most challenging?

The most rewarding part of my job is getting to build relationships with all the students in the school, as well as their families. I believe this relationship, that I work very hard to build, is the most fundamental and foundational part of any counseling that I do.  I feel lucky to be a part of the students’ lives each day- being present for the good times, as well as the hard times, and seeing their growth.

A challenging part of my job is the emotional weight that comes with it and the emotional weight that I take upon myself. I always feel there is more to be done, more helping to do, but there’s not enough time in the day or resources available.  It’s difficult seeing students go through incredibly hard life occurrences.  It’s also very difficult when situations can’t be fixed or changed, like with death and loss.  However, I try to go into every day fresh, with a smile on my face, ready to do my best for the students- to be a listener, a helper, an advocate, and the best counselor I can be.

What critical issues do you see that need to be addressed in your field?

There needs to be more resources for, and more emphasis on, social-emotional learning and related mental health services. Education no longer includes just math, reading, etc.; education also needs to include social-emotional learning.  I am the only counselor at my school building, which serves approximately 340 students grades pre-k through 6th.  I am accessible to all students in my school, and that’s a lot of students for one person to serve.  The American School Counselor Association actually recommends the ratio be 250 students to 1 counselor.  If we were able to get more resources and were to integrate more social-emotional learning into the learning environment, we would see positive, long-lasting effects.

What advice do you have for future education professionals?

The education field, and specifically the field of school counseling that I am a part of, can be emotionally taxing and draining. All day long, educators are on their toes, giving what they can to the students.  I would highly recommend setting aside time for self-care.  When putting so much time into others, your own person can go by the wayside. Put aside time for whatever resets and re-energizes you- exercise, reading, you name it.  That “you time”, I believe, is so important.

 

Alumni Spotlight: Ashley Peak, MIT, ’13

What is your name, which degree did you earn, & what year did you graduate?

Ashley Peak, Master of Initial Teaching, 2013

What is your current occupation or role?

7th/8th Grade English Teacher at Spokane International Academy. SIA is a public charter school that is an International Baccalaureate candidate school. I’m passionate about SIA and the IB’s mission of developing globally competent leaders who can transform our communities.

Prior to teaching at SIA, I taught in South America at a Private Bilingual K-12 school for 2 years and at Glover, a Title I middle school, for 2 years.

Why did you choose a program in the School of Education at Gonzaga?

I chose Gonzaga because of its stellar reputation in the community and high placement rate for teachers. I also liked the flexibility to complete the program in 2 years so I could work too; I was a Graduate Assistant to Professors in the Education Dept. and helped manage the Writing Center during my time there. Its focus on service learning and social justice also appealed to the activist in me.

What, or who, influenced you the most at Gonzaga?

The opportunity to visit Charles Lwanga College of Education in Monze, Zambia impacted me deeply. We attended Graduation; I’ll never forget a father shouting, “That’s my boy!” as his son’s name was called. Then there was a small trip with Beatrice, a teacher educator. In the car, she repeated to me, “Life can be hard mama. life can be painful.” She told me her life story during that car ride. Beatrice’s husband unexpectedly died at 32, living her with three children. She told me how after he died, she earned a college degree and became a teacher and how her oldest son lives in Lusaka and is studying to be a doctor. And lastly, the night I was with fellow Master’s degree students in a class; we were playing “Philosophical Chairs” with different pedagogy ideas. They were so passionate about their beliefs and the topics that they just kept on discussing after the power went out. These little moments reinforced the transformative power of education and reassure me that I was on the path I belonged on and there was nothing else I’d rather be doing.

Student teaching was also impactful; my mentor teacher went through the tragedy of losing a child at that time and was on leave for several weeks. I remember at first feeling panicked that I wasn’t ready, but it was sink or swim. Thankfully I swam with the support of Gonzaga Faculty. I’ll never forget the day after my mentor teacher found out and having to talk to his classes about what happened, how we could support him, and that I was going to do my absolute best to be their teacher for the next few months. That authenticity and vulnerability went a long way in developing relationships with my first students…I’ll never forget that.

What was your greatest lesson learned at Gonzaga?

I left Gonzaga with a strong and clear teaching philosophy. Through the coursework, I felt confident in what I believed in as far as assessment (thanks to Suzann Girtz), theory (thanks to Jonas Cox), classroom management (thanks to Doreen Keller) and unit and lesson design (thanks to Erik Powell). It’s these beliefs that still guide my decision-making as a teacher today.

What is the most rewarding aspect of working in your field? Most challenging?

I became a teacher because I believe it makes a difference. I feel so lucky to do something – that yes, is hard and exhausting – but more importantly that feeds my soul so deeply. Every day I get to teach that with hard work, creativity, collaboration, and more hard work, we can solve problems. That asking the right questions matters a lot more than always being right. That the ability to read critically will make or break our future. That we must be learners for life. That we can create a place where everyone feels safe and accepted. That our actions have consequences. That empathy is what makes us human. That privilege = responsibility. And that you don’t give up. Ever. What could be more rewarding than seeing your students start putting what they learn into action? Students at SIA have fundraised and loaned out more than $6,000 on KIVA. Just last week, we signed the pledge to Spread the Word to End the Word. We are a Washington Green School with a Silver Certification (we have a school garden and composting and recycling program). My heart just swells with joy.

The most challenging aspect of being a teacher is coping with the emotional weight. There is always this lingering reminder that there is technically more you could be doing. There is the incredible frustration of seeing a student going through something heartbreaking that you feel powerless to stop (secondary traumatic stress is very real for teachers in high-trauma schools). I have definitely cried in my car because I felt like I had done everything I could to help a student and it still wasn’t enough. In addition, I’ve heard it estimated that teachers make about 1,500 decisions a day. Sometimes I make the right ones, and sometimes I make the wrong ones, and that constant worry and responsibility is heavy. As a middle school teacher, I’m also frequently surrounded by high-intensity emotion (oh, hormones). By the end of a school day, I am exhausted! Teachers have to learn to dig deep and keep going because kids are counting on them. It takes a lot of resilience and grit…and a very delicate work-life balance.

What critical issues do you see that need to be addressed in your field?

Teachers need more support and resources incorporating Social-Emotional Learning – including an increase in mental health professionals and creating inclusive and positive school culture. I’d like to see curriculum and assessments based on authentic engagement, not compliant engagement. I also think it’s critical that more students have access to bilingual and international-minded education in light of our world’s increasingly global interconnectedness. Teachers need to have more power in decision-making regarding policy, curriculum, and assessment.

What advice do you have for future education professionals?

Be reflective every day. Keep learning and stay current on Education research (the homepage on my school computer is Edutopia). Find a school that has a mission similar to your own; fit is everything. Have fun with your students; make ridiculous rap video parodies with them. Remember to laugh at the chaos that is sometimes teaching (especially Middle School). Keep every thank you note and letter in a folder and take it out when you feel discouraged. Try new things; be a risk-taker. Let your passion and personality out. Be firm and consistent. Foster supportive, collaborative and positive relationships with coworkers. Find your teacher idols (mine are Jennifer Gonzalez, Love, Teach, Eric Jensen, and Donalyn Miller) and look to them for ideas and inspiration. Do what you believe and know is best for your students – always. If you’re a secondary teacher, don’t forget your love of your subject; make time to read and write for the love of it my fellow English teachers.

Alumni Spotlight: Kelsey Landreth, MIT, ’17

What is your name, which degree did you earn, & what year did you graduate?

Kelsey Landreth, MIT Elementary Education, 2017

What is your current occupation or role?

3rd Grade Teacher

Why did you choose a program in the School of Education at Gonzaga?

Gonzaga offered a two-year program so I could continue working, which was important to me. The MIT program has a good reputation and I felt that the small class sizes would give me more learning opportunities and opportunities to form relationships with fellow students and professors.

What, or who, influenced you the most at Gonzaga? 

It is hard to choose just one person who influenced me most during my two years at Gonzaga. Suzann Girtz, Deborah Nieding, and Kathy Nitta inspired me to be the best teacher I can be. They consistently taught that incorporating student interests into my teaching and building relationships is significant and provides more opportunities for students to succeed.

What was your greatest lesson learned at Gonzaga?

Hard work and perseverance are necessary to achieve your goals.

What is the most rewarding aspect of working in your field? Most challenging?

The most rewarding aspect of working as a third-grade teacher is being a huge part of your students’ lives. I spend 30 hours per week with them and it is my job to teach them what they need to know to succeed academically and socially. The most challenging situations I have come across have to do with parent communication. As a teacher, you must differentiate in your teaching and also in your communication style for each family.

What advice do you have for future education professionals?

It is impossible to please everyone, so do your best and trust your intuition.

Alumni Spotlight: Brooke Cushman, Athletic Administration, ’09

What is your name, which degree did you earn, & what year did you graduate?

Brooke Cushman; Masters in Athletic Administration (2009 I believe)

What is your current occupation or role?

Athletic Director at Lewis-Clark State College

Why did you choose a program in the School of Education at Gonzaga?

I chose GU because I heard great things about the small class size and the learning opportunities. I was also a graduate assistant in the athletic department.

What, or who, influenced you the most at Gonzaga? Please share as much as you are willing.

First it would be my professors. Chris Frye, Dr. Sunderland and Dr. Tunell. They were great leaders and teachers, and were always looking for us to go beyond the class room to gain experience.  Especially Dr. Frye, he helped me secure an internship with the Spokane Regional Sports commission.   Rob Kavon in the athletic department.  He was a great mentor and an extremely hard worker.

What is the most rewarding aspect of working in your field? Most challenging?

Working with student athletes and seeing them graduate.  It is great to watch students grow from a freshman to Senior and then see them in their career.  Most challenging aspect is fundraising for the department.  There is never enough money and you want to help everyone.  You have to have priority lists and follow them closely.

What critical issues do you see that need to be addressed in your field?

Wow, this is a great question.  It all depends on what level you are at in college athletics; it depends on your conference and school.  Big picture it would be the direction of athletics at the NCAA I level- pay to play- should we pay student athletes?

What advice do you have for future education professionals?

There are so many different areas to serve. Don’t be afraid to do internship on all levels, you might be surprised you like something you never though you would.

Alumni Spotlight: Marin Hatcher, MIT ’14

What is your name, which degree did you earn, & what year did you graduate?

Marin Hatcher- BS Biochemistry (2013) MIT Secondary Education (2014)

What is your current occupation or role?

Physical Science and Chemistry Teacher, Cheney High School, Cheney, WA

Why did you choose a program in the School of Education at Gonzaga?

I had a friend in the cohort before mine who absolutely loved the MIT program at Gonzaga. Additionally, I had such an amazing experience in my undergrad years, I decided to keep the good thing going.

What, or who, influenced you the most at Gonzaga? 

I felt like I have always bonded with Suzann Girtz. She has always been very real with how she speaks about the career. She does a great job at preparing her students for teaching, and is very supportive. She also has a great sense of humor that really helps her relate to her students. She was always great to brainstorm with about issues that arose in placements, or student teaching.

Additionally, I love the culture that surrounds education at Gonzaga. There has always been such a positive spin around education, and the program is really designed to put us ahead of the curve. Once I entered my job, I felt like I was ahead of the majority of other first year teachers that I was interacting with.

What was your greatest lesson learned at Gonzaga?

I learned how to really think critically about problems as they arose, and to really dig beneath the surface to get the whole picture. Many times in the last few years, I have been presented with a challenging situation, especially with students that do not fit the norm or need something different from me. Because of Gonzaga, I feel like I am a much more empathetic educator. I was taught to see the student as a whole person, instead of just a grade or problem

What is the most rewarding aspect of working in your field? Most challenging?

I love working with kids and having them walk into my room with smiles on their faces. And like all educators, I love seeing their faces when they finally understand something that has been difficult.

The most challenging part is learning how to differentiate a class, while still keeping high standards and my sanity. Also, balancing the many distinct personalities in a room definitely keeps me on my toes!

What critical issues do you see that need to be addressed in your field?

I think that there has been a shift to where educators are becoming the main parents for many students. We are the first to hold a lot of them accountable, and get very little support from home. Also, there is a lack of confidence in education that is emerging that can be challenging to deal with.

What advice do you have for future education professionals?

Before you do anything, get to know your students. Building a relationship with all of them, even the harder to love ones, is hands down the most effective way to deal with the majority of problems. Students will work more for someone that they feel is invested in them as a person. A quick check in, or a silly ice breaker every once in a while, will pay off in spades!

Additionally, let kids get to know you. Talk about your life, and interests. Being real with them will help them trust you.

Alumni Spotlight: Brenda Velasco, Teacher Education, ’06

  1. Tell us about yourself My name is Brenda Velasco. I was in the Master of Initial Teaching Program (MIT) and graduated in 2006.
  2. What are you doing now? I currently teach 3rd grade at St. Elizabeth Seton Elementary School in Rapid City, SD.  This is my 9th year of teaching.
  3. Why did you choose a program in the School of Education at Gonzaga? I was in the journalism field before finding my true calling to become a teacher.  At the time I was discerning a religious vocation and entered the Sisters of Providence. While in my candidacy year, I started volunteering at a school and fell in love with teaching.  I ended up leaving the religious community but my call to become a teacher continued. I wanted to find a program where I could get both my Masters and teaching certification. After looking at several programs, I decided on GU because of its great reputation and the fact that it’s a Catholic university.  I love the Jesuit philosophy, especially the emphasis on mission and social justice. I knew I couldn’t be at a better place than Gonzaga.
  4. What influenced you the most during your time at Gonzaga? I had so many wonderful professors at Gonzaga but two people stand out the most.  One is Dr. Jenny Nelson.  Her enthusiasm for teaching was influential in changing many of my fears and attitudes that I had at the time.  I saw how important it is to see beyond the worksheets and text books to create intriguing and interactive lessons which will engage and interest students. Prior to taking her class I never saw how teaching Social Studies could be fun. Her class completely changed my attitude and I incorporate many of these practices in my teaching today.  I see such a difference in my students when I make a lesson hands-on or project based. I thank Dr. Nelson for instilling me a love for teaching Social Studies and seeing beyond the text books and worksheets.  Another person who really guided me through my time at Gonzaga is Sharon Straub. She was instrumental in helping me with my Masters unit project.  She was always very patient with me and challenged me with wonderful constructive criticism on how to make my project stronger. Without her help I don’t think I could have done the best that was I was truly capable of doing.  Several years later when I was teaching bilingual kindergarten for the Pasco School District our paths crossed once again. I was preparing for my Pro Teach Portfolio for my professional certification and attended a workshop in Spokane. I found out that Sharon was going to teach a cohort in Pasco on how to prepare for the Pro-Teach.  I registered right away and knew we were all in good hands! Sharon would drive once a week from Spokane even in the winter time to meet with our Pasco cohort to help prepare us for our portfolio.  She would also check in throughout the week to see how we were doing. Thanks to her help, I was passed my Pro-Teach on my first try. I am very thankful for her guidance.
  5. What was your greatest lesson learned at Gonzaga? One of my greatest lessons learned at Gonzaga is that sometimes things don’t always go as planned but you need to stay positive regardless. My first student teaching assignment was not at all what I expected it to be. It just wasn’t the right fit in every way possible. I ended up getting reassigned to another school which set me back a semester. While at the time I was angry about it, I had great advisors, professors, and my wonderful MIT cohort who gave me wonderful support and advice. Being a practicing Catholic, I relied on my faith more than ever and knew that God sent me these wonderful people to help me through this difficult time.  I then ended up in the perfect student teaching experience for me which really set the path towards my future in education. As of this day, I teach 3rd grade and still incorporate some of the many things I learned from my wonderful master teacher. My professors also helped me to see that one set back was not going to sabotage my career.   I knew that all of this happened for a reason.  I had to go through the tough road in order to find my way on the right path.
  6. What is the most rewarding aspect of working in your field? Most challenging? There are so many rewards in teaching and it’s hard to name them all.  I love the expression on my students face when they finally understand a concept. I remember working with a kindergartner who just struggled in writing and identifying all of the letters in his name. No matter what we did to help, he just wasn’t getting it.  It took him until January but I’ll never forget how proud he was when he finally achieved this.  He was so happy he wanted to tell the principal!  He was the last one of my students to identify the letters in his name and we celebrated.  I knew he was capable of achieving this and never once gave up. That was such a rewarding moment for me, one I’ll never forget.  Every accomplishment big or small needs to be celebrated.   I also love to support my students in the different activities they are involved in. I’ll never forget when one of my students won the regional spelling bee and moved on to the South Dakota State competition. I think I was cheering the loudest when he won the regionals.  Most recently a group of my former students won their “Super Bowl” football competition. They were so excited to see me and were moved that I took time out of my weekend to attend their game. (On a cold, windy South Dakota day too!)My biggest challenge in my profession is finding support for new innovative ideas that could help advance a school or district.   Not everyone agrees with different curriculum materials so it can be a challenge to finally agree on one that works, with the students’ best interest in mind.  It’s sometimes hard to be heard especially in a bigger district.  I’ve experienced this in all the districts I have been in during my career. Whether it’s finding a new math curriculum, new STEM materials, reading curriculum..etc.. something always stands in the way.
  7. What critical issues do you see that need to be addressed in your field? In 2016 I was selected to attend the Mickelson Exxon Mobil Teachers Academy in Jersey City, NJ.  One of our speakers, Cathy Sealey, a renowned math teacher, mentioned something that really made me think about the way I teach math and science.  She stated that most students develop a fixed mindset of whether or not they like math and science by the time they are in 3rd grade. This mindset is difficult to change especially if they are not exposed to positive experiences in these subjects.   I think we have to find ways to help elementary school children become engaged in math and science in those early elementary years and then continue to support them throughout the rest of the school career.  Math needs to make sense, and students have to see that sometimes mistakes will be made when finding a solution to a problem.  It’s a process. There are many schools with outstanding STEM programs but not every district has this opportunity.
  8. What advice do you have for future education professionals? Teaching is truly a rewarding profession. It’s filled with challenges and joys. There are days when you feel so proud of all you have accomplished, and others when you just want to go home and take a nap.  My advice is to make sure that you find time for yourself as difficult as it may be. It’s so easy to spend hours, even weekends in your classroom (been there, done that.) but you need to find a balance. Set new personal goals and then achieve them.  I recently hiked up my first Colorado 14er. It’s a goal I had set for myself but never accomplished it until this last September. It was such a joy to reach the summit and wondered if this is how my students feel when they reach their goals as well. I shared this with my students and they were very proud of me for reaching the top of the mountain. They wanted to know details and see photos too.  I think students need to hear about special accomplishments and be inspired to reach their own “summits”.  Another piece of advice is to always look for new professional development opportunities. There are lots of workshops or conferences out there which help to improve or introduce teachers to new methods. Many workshops offer grants to pay for expenses while others could be paid for by your district if you ask.  I’ve been fortunate to attend workshops in New York City/Jersey City, Denver, St. Louis, and Chicago with all expenses paid for.  These great opportunities are out there and it’s a good way to network with teachers and educational experts from around the country to share new ideas.

At the top of a 14er

Alumni Spotlight: Steve Ames, Sport & Physical Education, ’15

  1. Tell us about yourself:  My name is Steve Ames. I earned a B.Ed. in Sport Management. I transferred to Gonzaga in the fall of 2008 from Columbia Basin College. I finally graduated in 2015 after slowly working toward my degree while playing professional baseball for both the LA Dodgers (2009-2013) and Miami Marlins (2013-2015).
  2. What are you doing now?: Currently I work for the Tampa Bay Rays as an area scout. I primarily scout amateur players at the high school and college levels. I currently live in Nashville, TN. My area consists of the entire state of Tennessee, Alabama down to Montgomery, and a small portion of western Kentucky.
  3. Why did you choose a program in the School of Education at Gonzaga? Sports have always played a huge role in my life and I had always planned on working in the sport industry in some form after my playing days were over. A degree in sport management seemed like an obvious choice and the program at Gonzaga is highly respected.
  4. What influenced you the most during your time at Gonzaga? Well first let me say, I met my eventual wife Allyson Powell at Gonzaga, a former volleyball player. There have been many teammates and coaches, who have had an obvious influence on my life as well. The School of Education department truly has a family atmosphere. Dr. Karen Rickel has had the greatest influence in my educational experience at Gonzaga. She was my advisor for the majority of my time at GU, and was always available to answer any questions. I can honestly say without her, I don’t know if I would have followed through and finished my degree after getting drafted. Dr. Heidi Nordstrom, Dr. Tunnell, and Dr. Park all worked with my unique schedule and were vital to my success as I slowly worked toward my degree.
  5. What was your greatest lesson learned at Gonzaga? Just because the COG always has dessert, doesn’t mean you need to take one every meal.
  6. What is the most rewarding aspect of working in your field? Most challenging? The most rewarding aspect of scouting is watching guys you draft work their way through the minor leagues and get that call up to the Major Leagues. That’s what this job is all about, signing big league players. The most challenging aspect is just that, trying to get the sign the right guys. There is no perfect science to scouting, and that’s why it is so rewarding when you find big leaguers. Especially when they are later round drafts that you have a gut feel about.
  7. What critical issues do you see that need to be addressed in your field? I wouldn’t call the use of analytics a critical issue, but it continues to grow. Its use affects how the game is played, and how players are evaluated. Scouts must continue to adapt to the use on technology like Pitch FX and Trackman in ballparks across the country. The use of analytics is a great tool to help evaluate and make decisions, but there is a human element to our game. It will be interesting to see how the use of analytics evolves over the next 10 years and beyond.
  8. What advice do you have for future education professionals? Persistence pays off, which can be said for any profession. If you want something bad enough, go get it, keep chipping away until you reach your goal. I took 1 class per semester for 5 years and then was able to come back and finish. A college degree meant a lot to me. I was the first person in my family to earn one, and while they aren’t everything, I knew it would help me get a career once I was finished playing.

Alumni in Focus: Bill Smith, Leadership & Administration

Athlete, firefighter, lawyer, leader.

These words describe Bill Smith of Calgary, Alberta. After a career in football with the Calgary Dinos team, for which he was a part during their Vanier Cup win in 1985, Smith decided to make a career change and become a firefighter.

Seeking leadership advancement in the job he loved, Smith approached his superiors only to find out that he needed higher qualifications.

Along with his wife Mary, Smith enrolled in Gonzaga’s Master’s in Leadership and Administration in the 1997-1999 Calgary cohort. Surprisingly, after earning his degree, he was told that he was now overqualified for a higher position.

Smith decided to resign and instead pursue a law degree. After graduating with a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Calgary in 2003 and articling at Parlee McLaw, he and Dave Findlay, his partner, took over the law practice of Bruce Miller.

In June of 2016, Smith opened his own boutique law firm, Law Shop – Legal Easy, that supports small and medium sized companies with affordable prices.

This year, Smith used his top-notch leadership skills to run for Mayor of the city of Calgary. Although he lost in the October 16 election, he proved to be a candidate strong in leadership and vison for his beloved city.

 

Alumni Spotlight: Clare Greaney

What is your name, which degree did you earn, & what year did you graduate?

Clare Greaney

Majored in Special Education and got an Elementary Endorsement

Graduated in 2015

What is your current occupation or role?

4th-6th grade resource room teacher at Arlington Elementary in Spokane

Why did you choose a program in the School of Education at Gonzaga?

By the time I was looking at colleges, I had known for a few years that I wanted to be a teacher.  I wanted to be able to graduate in four years with a teaching certificate, and I wanted to be able to begin working in the schools early in my program.  Gonzaga was the only college I looked at that offered both of these things.  When I visited Gonzaga the summer before my senior year of high school, a professor from the School of Education took the time to sit down with me and really explain how the program worked.  Both the conversation and the fact that a professor cared enough to help me make my decision made it clear to me that Gonzaga was the best fit.

What, or who, influenced you the most at Gonzaga? Please share as much as you are willing.

Tim McLaughlin influenced me most at Gonzaga.  My freshman year of college I was never completely sure if Special Education was the right fit for me, and I planned to teach in a general education setting.  Tim became my advisor my sophomore year and I also began taking classes from him that year.  My junior year I took his Behavior Disorders class, which was my favorite class in college and really helped me discern that I did want to be a Special Education teacher.  Working with students who need support with their behavior is my favorite part of my job, and it is because of Tim McLaughlin that I first got interested in this aspect of teaching.

What is the most rewarding aspect of working in your field? Most challenging?

The most rewarding aspect of being a resource room teacher is creating a space where struggling learners feel safe, supported, and successful.  My students often struggle to keep up in class, and many of them feel defeated by the fact that they aren’t able to do everything their peers can.  Being able to show them that they are making academic progress and celebrating their successes and strengths is one of my favorite parts of my job.

The most challenging aspect of working in my field is the lack of resources.  Special Education programs are often understaffed and have high staff turnover, and both of these things make my job more challenging and creates a less stable environment for my students.  I teach in a Title 1 school, so many of my student are not having basic needs met at home and therefore require a higher level of support at school.

What critical issues do you see that need to be addressed in your field?

I think more of an emphasis needs to be placed on mental health, both in schools and in teacher training programs.  The mental health of students has a huge impact on how well they are able to function at school, both behaviorally and academically.  While there are some supports for this in the school I work at, I think that we need to be doing more to support our students with mental health issues.  I also believe more should be done to prepare teachers to be effective with students with mental health issues.

What advice do you have for future education professionals?

I would advise future education professionals to learn how to take good care of themselves.  Teaching can be incredibly rewarding, but it can also be incredibly exhausting.  One of the most important things I have had to learn since I began teaching is how to disconnect myself from the job and recharge, so that I can go back the next day and be at my best.

Alumni Spotlight: Christy Swan, Principal Certification, ’16

  1. Tell us about yourself: Christy Swan. I completed Principal Certification in 2016
  2. What are you doing now?: Assistant Principal of Chester and Ponderosa Elementary in Central Valley School District
  3. Why did you choose a program in the School of Education at Gonzaga? Not only does Gonzaga have a stellar reputation for education, it also met my needs for earning my certificate while teaching and completing an internship. The pace of the program was ideal, allowing me to finish my work in a year.
  4. What influenced you the most during your time at Gonzaga? Dr. Cynthia Johnson had a huge impact on my work. She pushed my thinking and offered experiences that challenged me while also helping to develop my confidence in school leadership.  Cindy was supportive, encouraging, and without a doubt an advocate for all in the program.  It was, and still is, her main focus that all candidates leave ready to enter the field of school leadership and do so with passion and excitement. 
  5. What was your greatest lesson learned at Gonzaga? The greatest lesson I learned at Gonzaga was the power of a cohort. I believe working through the program with others was pivotal in helping me feel supported and engaged.  We were all able to share experiences, grow one another’s thinking, and celebrate our successes.
  6. What is the most rewarding aspect of working in your field? Most challenging? Hands down, the most rewarding part of working in my field is serving others. It is my “why.”  My purpose for coming to work each day is to serve those around me and to ensure that their needs are met.  I am lucky enough to work with amazing students, teachers, support staff, administrators, parents, and community members. The most challenging part of my job is there are not nearly enough hours in the day to do all I believe is necessary to fulfill my role. With that challenge, I have learned to balance my time prioritize my “to do” and enjoy the ride!
  7. What critical issues do you see that need to be addressed in your field? A critical issue I believe that needs to be addressed in education is the mental health of students. We serve many students of complex trauma and other outside factors that need support.  Currently, we are limited in all that we can do to help these young kids. 
  8. What advice do you have for future education professionals? Make sure you know your “why.” It guides you in all that you do.
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