What did you want to be when you grew up?
A paleontologist, a professional soccer player, a physical therapist. My answer evolved just as quickly as I grew and changed. Along with it, however, there was always one constant: motherhood. I wanted to be a mom. More than anything else I wanted to devote my life to raising a family.
What brought you to Aquinas?
My last couple years of high school, I remained unsure of what I wanted to pursue in college, a plight faced by many seventeen and eighteen-year-olds. I considered nursing and decided to take an anatomy course, which I absolutely hated. Nope, nursing was definitely not for me. I seriously thought about a theology degree with the possibility of working in youth ministry. Could I afford the tuition to one of these Catholic Universities, though? Certainly not without considerable financial aid. Better not bank on that. So, I decided to take a different route. I decided to figure out what school I wanted to attend and then I would worry about what major to choose. After considerable research and prayer along with visits to multiple colleges and universities, I thought that maybe God was calling me to Aquinas. I still wasn’t 100% sure. I had originally thought I wanted the live-on-campus college experience, which was not an option there at the time. The more time I spent learning about the school and visiting the campus, however, the more I grew to love it. So Aquinas it was. Then, as if to validate that I was making the right decision, on the day of my high school graduation, I received a letter in the mail. Full tuition scholarship! I was floored. Often times God works in subtle ways, and then other times are not so subtle! I knew, now, without a doubt that I was meant to spend the next four years at this school.
What was your major course of study?
At the time, Aquinas had four majors to choose from: Nursing, Business, Liberal Arts, and Teacher Education. I already knew I wasn’t cut out for nursing. Business was not something that interested me, and I wanted something more specific than Liberal Arts. By default that left Teacher Ed. I was okay with that; I figured that a career in teaching would coincide well with my ultimate dream of raising a family. Little did I know just how much my education would prepare me for what I am doing now.
How are you using your degree today?
Sitting in my classes at Aquinas, I had no clue that I would soon be using what I was learning to help me in my ultimate vocation as a mother of five. Five blessings who all came to us in fewer than five years, that is. Classroom management techniques, transition strategies, lesson and activity planning, flexibility and patience, patience, patience… I use these on a daily basis in my home with my own children. These are skills that I formerly learned in school and then sharpened and honed during practicums, student teaching placements and ultimately in my own classroom. These are skills that I expected to use in my plans to eventually homeschool my children, but that I didn’t expect would literally carry me through the day-to-day tasks of managing a household of tiny people. God prepares us in amazing and unexpected ways.
How do you believe God was (and is) preparing you for the future?
God likes to take things a step further, however. He likes to show us that we are capable of more than we can personally believe of ourselves. My education courses included classes on child development and special education. I enjoyed them, but I learned the material simply because it was required for my degree. I had no intentions of becoming a special ed. teacher and never in a million years did I think I would have a child of my own with special needs. It wasn’t something I had much experience with and therefore wasn’t something I thought I could handle. Fast-forward five years into my life, however, and my third baby is born and he just so happens to have an extra chromosome. Welcome to the world of Down Syndrome! I knew literally nothing about Down Syndrome, and we spent the first months after his diagnosis learning. Learning about the physical challenges he may face, ruling out common medical complications, and setting him up with early interventions and therapies. It was an uncertain and emotional time in my life. As we navigated doctors and therapists and read through books and handouts, I already had a nicely formed vocabulary of special needs lingo to help guide me. Having this basic knowledge was a source of comfort. It just made things a little bit easier during a difficult time.
Looking back, I now know that God was preparing me specifically for this through some of my classes at Aquinas: Child Development, Exceptional Learners, Behavior Interventions and Linguistics all taught me things that I now use as a special needs mom. I remember how fascinated I was with my higher-level Linguistics class. We learned about the different sounds we use in the English language: how they’re formed, what parts of the mouth are used and which are more difficult than others. Speech is the area where our Luke currently struggles the most. His low muscle tone makes it more challenging for him to form his mouth to make sounds correctly. He is almost three and only has a handful of words. He receives speech therapy each week and I’m so grateful that my education gave me a basic understanding of what’s going on. God is good!
What’s next for you and your family?
My next challenge will be homeschooling. My oldest is almost five and we’ve decided to start her in kindergarten this year and homeschool her. I was homeschooled from third grade through high school graduation and it was a very positive experience for me. It was always something I thought I would like to try with my own kids. Again, it was a strong reason why a degree in education appealed to me. Honestly, now, the idea makes me a little nervous. I’m not sure exactly how I am going to manage teaching her while also caring for a three year old, two toddlers and a baby, but I know that I have a solid education and some great experience to use to my advantage. God has given me the tools I need to do the work He has asked of me and I am so glad that it included four wonderful, blessed years at Aquinas. Even from the beginning, I knew that I was receiving a very special education. However, I never would have imagined that this is where I’d be seven years post graduation. Nor could I have anticipated that my education would serve me so richly in my daily life as a mother. I had absolutely hoped for some version of this, but God’s plans are always bigger and most certainly always better. I will forever be grateful for the time I spent at Aquinas College.