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Student Spotlight

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  • 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.”

  • 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."

  • 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. 

  • 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."

  • 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. 

  • Alexis Friedman

    Alexis Frieman | Nothin' But Love for Education

    When asked about what she enjoys most about the College of Education, Alexis' reply: the building, the courses, the people, what's not to love?!

  • 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!"

  • Sydney Stephens

    Sydney Stephens | "Teachers are the foundation for everything."

    Sydney Stephens is a junior Elementary Education major and student-athlete on the Illinois Soccer team.

  • 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. 

  • Jack Josellis | Future Fulbright

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

  • Amy Heinrichs

    Amy Heinrichs | A Non-Traditional Journey To Finding Her Passion

    "After working with children in many aspects I realized this was my passion and wanted to do."

  • 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.

  • Julie Ross

    Julie Ross | Passionate About the Next Generation of Learners

    As the 2021-2022 school year kicks off, we introduce you to Julie Ross who is thrilled to be back on this bustling campus this fall! She's even more excited to one day lead her own classroom of crazy busy middle school students. Learn more about why Julie loves Education at Illinois!

  • Ryan Eleveld

    Ryan Eleveld | Making School Feel Like Home

    Ryan Eleveld has a passion for science and teaching. The senior Specialized Chemistry major and Secondary Education minor can't wait to get into the classroom. Learn more about Ryan in this week's student spotlight.

  • 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.

  • Grace Schlichter

    Grace Schlichter | Helping People & Inspiring Students

    Grace Schlichter is our featured undergraduate student in this week's student spotlight.

  • 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.

  • Jasmine Castillo

    Jasmine Castillo | "Everyone has a voice, and as a teacher I will encourage each student to use theirs."

    Jasmine Castillo, a History major with Secondary Education and Spanish minors, Illinois is our student spotlight this week.

  • 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.

  • Shelby Oertel

    Shelby Oertel | A Passion for Adult Learning

    "I have a passion for adult learning."

  • 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."

  • 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!"

  • 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. 

  • 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. 

  • 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."

  • 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.

  • Nia Curtis | A Trip to South Africa

    Last summer, Elementary Education Junior Nia Curtis took an 18-hour flight out of the country for the first time. She met her mother, a high school English teacher and Fulbright Recipient, in South Africa. Over the summer they traveled to Botswana, Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Zimbabwe.

  • 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.

  • 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."

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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."

  • Dante Studamire

    Danté Studamire | Here to Support First-year Students

    Danté Studamire knows the value of sounding boards in life. In his relatively short time here at Illinois, he can already point to a handful of mentors and faculty who are helping shape his goals, vision, and future academic pursuits. (Not to mention his Ph.D. dissertation!) This year, the Office of Minority Student Affairs has appointed Danté to serve as a mentor to College of Education first-year students who are finding their way. He's part of the College's academic advising team, and is excited to meet Education students and learn about their ideas and passions.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Allie Gilbert

    Allie Gilbert | Realizing Her Passion for Equitable Education

    Senior Allie Gilbert has truly made the most of her student experience while at Illinois. From her involvement in Epsilon Delta and Student Alumni Ambassadors to doing a pandemic-shortened study abroad semester in Spain, she's explored many opportunities to learn where her true passions lie. Now, she waits to hear back about her Fulbright Scholarship application—staying true to continuing to learn about herself, the world, and how to provide equitable education to her future students.

  • Emily Crosswell

    Emily Crosswell | A Future Serving Students and Her Country

    Emily Crosswell is involved all over campus and Central Illinois. The sophomore from Watseka teaches with IGlobal, has studied abroad, and spends some time with the Illinois Army National Guard. She's taking her life experience and passion for people into her future classroom. Read more about Emily in this week's Student Spotlight.

  • 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. 

  • Jerny Walls

    Jerny Walls | Interested in How Disparities Impact the Lives of Students and Teachers

    "I love how supportive my classmates are, they really have helped me stay motivated during my college career."

  • Erin Dickett

    Erin Dickett | Valuing Students' Unfiltered Cultural Perspectives

    Middle school can be tough, but Erin Dickett says the College's new IGlobal Program helps students connect with each other around the globe. Which is inspiring for everyone.

  • 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."

  • Abby Lynch

    Abby Lynch | "Equitable Opportunities Begin in Schools"

    "I want to be involved in shaping the youth, and I believe education is more than just standards and schooling."

  • 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. 

  • Audrey Kermgard

    Audrey Kermgard | Educators Shape Worldviews and Values

    Audrey Kermgard is our featured undergraduate student in this week's student spotlight.

  • 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."

  • 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."