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  • Xochtil's professional headshot

    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 stands head to toe in Illini orange

    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 smiles in her yard

    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's graduation portrait

    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

    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 enjoys a summer afternoon on the water.

    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 poses in front of a brick wall

    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 poses next to a mural that reads "Great Minds Think Illinois"

    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 on the beach

    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 poses for a selfie

    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.

  • Gwen smiles from her dorm

    Gwen Cox | Fueling the Next Generation

    It's easier than ever for our vision to be fogged when thinking about future plans in a time of such unpredictability. Freshman Gwen Cox understands that the importance of education is one constant she can count on. "The next generation of students have a big impact on our future, and to have to opportunity to fuel them to have big goals and inspire them to keep learning would be an amazing experience," she says.

  • Abby smiles softly

    Abby Dizon | Determined to Inspire

    Senior Abby Dizon misses the warm, positive energy of the College of Education building most of all in these strange times. The positivity from her peers and instructors of present, all the way back to Kindergarten, have influenced her personally and professionally. When asked about her aspirations to teach in Chicago Public Schools as a Golden Apple Scholar, she replied, "I am determined to inspire students and provide them with a reason to be their best self every single day."

  • Genesis Rivera | "The Key To Our Liberation"

    Freshman Genesis Rivera experienced her formative years at a low-income Black and Brown elementary school in Chicago. From a young age, she noticed her peers lose their passion for education after experiencing the traumas of family and friends falling victim to gun violence and incarceration. Genesis is determined to break this vicious cycle with the best tool she knows — teaching. "I want to be able to tell my students that education and knowledge is powerful." She says, "It’s the key to our liberation and will help us give back to our communities. My students will not be another statistic."

  • Rayna Zirkelbach | The Road Worth Taking

    Transferring to a new school can be challenging, but for Rayna, the warm environment of the University of Illinois made the transition an easy one. Once Rayna was welcomed with open arms to campus, she soon found her place in the College of Education, but not how you might think. When asked about her decision to become an educator, she replied, "I didn’t know for a long time. On a whim I got a job at a daycare, and this is where I fell in love with education. I knew I wanted to do this as my career." Rayna's story is a great example that you don't have to have it all figured out right away. Sometimes the longer road is the one worth taking! 

  • Lucille Luan | Miles Away, Always at Home

    Senior Lucille Luan traveled far from her family in Cupertino, California to pursue an education at Illinois, but she's always at home with the College of Education. Lucille comes from a family of educators, and says "I was naturally drawn to the idea of becoming a teacher since my early exposure to family members who were teachers! My grandma, my dad, and my previous professors and teachers are all strong influences."

  • Shelby Oertel | Goodbye, Comfort Zone

    Freshman Shelby Oertel is stepping out of her comfort zone and into opportunity this year! There's a lot to take in at Illinois, and that's precisely why she's here. Shelby is looking forward to Illini basketball seasons and all the new friendships to come in the four years ahead of her. Most of all, Shelby is looking forward to gaining "The best perspective to further my professional development and allow me to help shift the workplace dynamic" through the College of Education.

  • Jacalyn Wingerter | Inspired by Educators

    Everyone has a special educator that has inspired them in some way. Senior Jacalyn Wingerter draws inspiration from her English professor, Professor Pollock. She says, "He's the most enthusiastic English professor and really knows how to make any type of literature come to life!" Jacalyn hopes to bring the same enthusiasm to an English classroom of her own after graduating. This week, tell an educator in your life how they inspire you!

     

  • Aranza Rico | Kindness Counts

    Junior Aranza Rico is feeling the love from the College of Education family. These days are hard for us all, and kindness can go a long way. Aranza says the staff is "Very helpful and friendly. They care about students' mental health, especially during these times." The university has a number of mental health opportunities and resources available to those in need. 

     

  • Grace smiles with a glass of ice coffee

    Grace McCoy| Just The Beginning

    Freshman Grace McCoy is starting her college journey under unusual circumstances, but that's not stopping her ambition, optimism, and drive! Grace has always seen the value in education, and through the support of the College of Education community, she is pursuing a degree in Elementary Education. Grace says, "Any job in this profession would be rewarding and would keep me on my toes, so that I continue to feel that I am doing something worthwhile for my students."

  • Sean Gardiner | Opened Eyes

    Sean Gardiner, a Junior in English and Secondary Education, has learned so much on his undergraduate journey. His favorite lessons so far are the tough truths of the inequality in our education system. Sean says this of his Identity and Difference in Education class, "It truly opened my eyes to the imbalances in our education system and in our world today as a whole. I have recommended it to many of my friends, even those that are not in the College of Education."

  • Kennedy Record | Shaping Future World Changers

    Sophomore Kennedy Record is living life as an Illinois student to the fullest. She loves cheering on the Fighting Illini, checking out the local coffee shops, and most of all, she loves her work with children with disabilities. Kennedy says, "I desire to be supportive of children who feel voiceless, to be someone who will fight for their needs."

  • RJ Schlesinger | Breaking the Mold

    Senior RJ Schlesinger's skills and interests are totally unique. At Illinois, RJ doesn't have to fit into one category-he can make his own! Through research, courses, and mentorship from his professors, RJ is taking all he has learned and sharing it by becoming an educator. RJ says "I want to teach! It’s equal parts exciting and terrifying, but I am up to the challenge!"

  • Haley Allen | Learning Along The Way

    Despite all of her research, trainig and studies, senior Haley Allen still felt uneasy about taking over a classroom of her own. That is, until her mentors in the College of Education taught her a very valuable lesson; you will always be learning along the way. Haley says, "Because of my instructors, I now feel prepared for the many unknowns that come with teaching young children."

  • Claudia stands in front of a row of brightly lit lamp posts, smiling.

    Claudia Kobylarczyk | Paying it Forward

    Senior Claudia Koblarczyk fell in love with education through her experience as a tutor. Her adoration of literature, passion as a mentor, and guidance from educators and peers has set her on the path to success. Now, she's paying it forward with plans to return to her alma mater, Reavis High School, as an English Teacher.

  • Morgan Murphy | A Childhood Dream Come True

    Freshman Morgan Murphy has dreamed of being a teacher since childhood.

    "I love teaching children something new and exciting. Seeing their faces light up with knowledge gives me a sense of pride and happiness."

    Read more on Morgan's goals and aspirations at Illinois and beyond!

  • Melia Watson | Making the Classroom a Home

    Junior Melia Watson explored many education paths before finding her calling in Special Education. The comfort and acceptance extended to Melia on her journey by the College of Education is something she will take with her to a future classroom of her own. For students who come from backgrounds with less opportunity, the classroom doubles as a place to call home. 

  • Diamond Dadej | Honor the Past, Better the Future

    Senior and history/secondary education major Diamond Dadej is teaching us a lot more than history in this week’s blog. Read on for a lesson in learning from those around you, pride in where you come from, determination in where you are going, and one very important reminder to carry with you throughout the semester;
    “Nothing is impossible for an Illini.”

  • Raina Kutliroff | Finding Your Path

    When Raina started at Illinois, she thought her fun and creative spirit meant the arts was where she belonged. But she found herself missing something in her major, eventually realizing she could use her artistic skills as a full time educator, making the College of Education her new home. Raina’s story reminds us all that as we start a new school year, it's okay to not have it all figured out. Trust yourself on your journey, and everything will work out for the best! 

  • University of Illinois elementary-education graduate Nia Curtis of Chicago

    Nia Curtis: The graduate

    By now, every corner of our community has been touched by the coronavirus pandemic. As he will until the crisis subsides, Anthony Zilis spent an eighth week telling the stories of those affected. He recently spoke with Nia Curtis, Elementary Education major and soon-to-be graduate, in his 'Coronavirus and the Community' series.

  • Jack Josellis | Future Fulbright

    Jack Josellis, a history major and secondary education minor spent a semester in Spain as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant.

  • Claire Follis | Fighting Education Inequality

    Learning & Education Studies major Claire Follis is passionate about education inequality. She believes that a child's quality of education should not be dependant on the zip code they live in. That defining principle is what motivates her in both her research and professional work. 

  • Julia Rhodes | Learning in Italy

    Elementary Education sophomore Julia Rhodes is spending her Spring semester studying in Verona, Italy; and she thinks everyone should study abroad, even if only for a week-long program.

  • Amanda Navarro | Education is Powerful

    Middle Grades Education junior, Amanda Navarro knows that education has the power to change the world— and that's why she's here.

    "Since I was younger, it was the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do. I’ve always wanted to give back, whether it was through my community or surrounding ones, but I knew I wanted to do it through education."

  • Grace Seiffert | A Home Away From Home

    Special Education sophomore Grace Seiffert has always had a passion and talent for working with children; so naturally, pursuing education was the next step. While on campus and away from family, Grace says the College of Education has really become her home away from home. 

  • Danielle Golob | A Passion For SPED

    Following in her mother's footsteps, Special Education senior Danielle Golob wanted to pursue education as early as second grade. She says that getting to experience education both from her own schooling and through her mother's eyes provided her with a different perspective, solidifying her passion for education. After graduation, Danielle hopes to teach special education. 

  • Devon Jackson | A Future In ESL

    After graduating in 2021 from Middle Grades Education with a minor in Literacy and ESL, Devon aspires to pursue a career as an on-set teacher in the entertainment industry.

  • Ellen Reckamp | A Semester Abroad

    Ellen Reckamp just started her junior year as an English major, Secondary Education minor. She always knew she wanted a career that worked hands-on with other people, and with education she could really help students grow and feel empowered.

  • Mike Rotter | Illini 4000

    Special Education Junior Mike Rotter spent his summer riding a bike across the country from New York City to San Francisco with the Illini 4000 team. Every summer the group sets out on their cross-country adventure to raise money for cancer research and support services.

  • Marisol Jimenez | Outstanding Award For Outstanding Research

    Senior Learning & Education Studies Marisol Jimenez was awarded Oustanding Oral Presentation at the 2019 Illinois Undergraduate Research Symposium for her research on the reform acts in Chicago from 1980 to 2015 and their push for the standarization and accountability movement.

  • Kevin Ho | Exploring Family History With Fulbright

    Kevin Ho, an english major and secondary education minor will be headed to Vietnam this fall as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant.

  • Katie Barr | IEA Student of the Year

    The Illinois Education Association has named the University of Illinois’ Katie Barr as Student of the Year. Barr is currently a junior in the College of Education, majoring in Middle Grades Education with concentrations in Literacy, ESL, and Spanish, while also pursuing a minor in Spanish.

  • Mike Rotter | Illini 4000 Ride in Honor of Dr. David Zola

    Special Education Sophomore Mike Rotter is gearing up for his second summer with the Illini 4000 group. This year, his 4000 mile ride is dedicated to his first and favorite college professor: Dr. David Zola. 

  • David Pollak | With Teaching in His Blood

    Senior Elementary Education major David Pollak can't remember a time growing up where he didn't want to be a teacher. With an entire family made up almost exclusively of educators, he's convinced it was always in his blood. 

  • Jasmine Wong | The News-Gazette Teacher of the Week

    Elementary Education alumna Jasmine Wong was named The News-Gazette's Teacher of the Week. Jasmine is a third-grade gifted-classroom teacher at Champaign's Booker T. Washington Elementary. 

  • Natalie O'Callaghan | An Advocate For Fellow Illini

    Elementary Education Senior, Natalie O'Callaghan has loved being part of the Illini family. One of the things that has made her Illinois experience memerable was getting involved with Illinois Student Government and the UC Campus Senate as the College of Education Student Senator. She considers herself lucky to have the opportunity to advocate for both Education students as well as University students as a whole. 

  • Nancy Lazaro | President of Golden Apple Illini

    In middle school, Nancy had no idea what college was. But after one of her teachers inspired her to be an educator, she learned about Big Ten schools and Illinois.

    Today, Nancy is a Senior Golden Apple Scholar and president of Golden Apple Illini. She has also worked as a tutor with America Reads/America Counts.

  • Candace Hsu | Born To Teach

    Candace knew her purpose in life was to be a teacher from the age of seven. As a senior majoring in elementary education and minoring in speech and hearing science, she loves connecting what she learns from one field of study to another. She hopes to create a future classroom in which her students can walk in with a smile and leave feeling encouraged and empowered.

  • Sam Fishman | Student Teaching

    Special Education major, Sam Fishman is currently student teaching at Jefferson Middle School in Champaign. He says working with his 8th graders has been the highlight of his college career thus far. Sam is in a co-taught english and math period working with four students in a Tier 3 math intervention class.

  • Matthew Sondag | Inspired To Change

    Junior Matthew Sondag's choice to pursue Early Childhood Education was inspired by the quote, "To see the change, you must create the change." His goal is to create a classroom that promotes acceptance, respect, kindness, and the love of learning. 

  • Xue Yan Chen | Research Grant for Capstone Project

    Learning and Education Studies Senior, Xue Yan Chen received a $1,050 Undergraduate Research Support grant for her capstone project. She is working to develop an interactive prototype application grounded in the keyword method and usability testing to access effectiveness on Spanish vocabulary recall and comprehension.