Student Spotlight

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Student Spotlight

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  • Xochitl Mondragon | Reflection and Gratitude

    As the school year comes to a close, we reflect on our growth and look to the future. Elementary Education senior Xochitl Mondragon is taking this time of reflection to show her gratitude to the educators that got her where she is today. From formative years spent with outstanding grade school teachers, to the inspirational difference teachers made on her young niece, to the guidance and "pure heart" of professors in the College of Education, this Teacher Appreciation Week (and every week) we celebrate teachers. Now, as Xochtil says her goodbyes to Illinois, she prepares to join the ranks of impactful educators everywhere.

  • David McCormack | "Everyone Has Dignity"

    Senior David McCormack has enjoyed his time on campus with involvement in Best Buddies, the Newman Center, and intramural sports. Most of all, he cherishes his experiences in his chosen field of Special Education. He recalls the beginnings of his affinity for special education back in high school, "I decided that I'd want to follow this passion and start to devote my life to it." Now, David is looking forward to starting his professional career as a Special Educator in a classroom of his own at Lincoln Jr. High this fall.

  • Sharon Stagaman | Finding Her Niche

    Graduation is just around the corner for Elementary English and Spanish major Sharon Stagaman. Since watching her father become an educator in her childhood, Sharon knew she wanted to follow in his footsteps one day. But carving your own path is no small task, and Sharon credits finding her niche in the education field to the diverse learning experiences at the College of Education. "I feel really prepared to graduate with experiences at different types of schools across grade levels, and I feel so lucky that these experiences started junior year to help me solidify that teaching is what I want to do."

  • Kapri Dowdell | Advocate and Inspire

    As her senior year comes to a close, Special Education major Kapri Dowdell has her eyes set on her future as an educator. After graduation, Kapri is heading home to Chicago as an elementary school teacher in Chicago Public Schools, with plans to return to school for a Master's in Administration in a few years. When asked about her dream job, Kapri stated, "I want to be a principal or have a higher power in our education system to advocate for our students with special needs for academic, emotional, and mental support."

  • Lesly Ortega | "Teaching is the only path for me"

    Junior Lesly Ortega feels that the path to teaching is the only one for her, and has felt this way since childhood. As an English major and Secondary Education minor, Lesly has enjoyed her courses in and out of the College of Education, and looks forward to returning to her high school as an English teacher as soon as possible. When she's not in class or studying, Lesly enjoys checking out the local restaurants and greeting her peer's pets on the quad.

  • Erin Molay | Ready To Explore

    Erin Molay is determined to give her future students the most authentic and enriching experience a classroom can offer. That's why after she has completed her studies as an Elementary Education major and Psychology minor, Erin plans to travel the world and explore the cultures and communities abroad. When asked about her time with the College of Education, Erin said, "I love the close-knit community atmosphere!"

  • Cara Merkle | Sharing The Love

    For many middle schoolers, math and science are tricky, boring, and even loathed classes. But for freshman Cara Merkle, the two subjects are not only understood, but adored! Cara's affinity for math and science is so strong, she's dedicating herself to sharing that love and knowledge as a Middle Grades Math & Science Education major. While only in her freshman year, Cara already has her sights set on how her future classroom will motivate and inspire her students in the face of challenging subjects, "I'd really like to have a classroom that makes lessons more engaging and exciting so students can grow to love the subject!"

  • Sara Striepling | Community, Opportunity, and Balance

    Whether it's growing alongside her peers in her cohort, ushering a show at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, patronizing local businesses, or exploring her passion of special education, Sophomore Sara Striepling values the community she has found in Champaign-Urbana. Most of all, she appreciates the balanced life as a College of Education student, remarking "It's great to have the opportunities and experiences that come with going to a large university while still having small and personal classes." 

  • Madison Barrera | "Always Demonstrate Care"

    Ever since she saw the increasing need for special education teachers firsthand in her Chicago high school, sophomore Madison Barrera has been a strong advocate for inclusivity in the education system. Through her studies as a Special Education major and Speech Language Pathology minor, Madison is practicing the belief that educators have the power to make lasting positive impacts on every student. She says, "Our job is to keep all of our students in our minds with every decision and always demonstrate care for our students’ success."

  • Emily Manzo | "Thrive in Your Chosen Path"

    Halfway through her junior year, Emily Manzo has already taught and studied abroad in Costa Rica, conducted research under three professors, and led discussions in EDUC 101, all while working toward her degree in Learning and Education Studies-Educational Equality Cultural Understanding, and minoring in Spanish and Latinx Studies. Having savored all of these experiences and more, Emily misses her time with friends at La Casa Cultural the most from her pre-pandemic days on campus.