TOP PHOTO, from left
to right: Gerry Plant, Jessie Michie (top), Holly Markert (bottom),
Uvanda Thomas, Kennya Santana (top) and Kristen Williams (bottom).
LEFT PHOTO, from top to bottom: Jennifer Colquitt, Nicole Stover,
Shawonda Durham (left) and Rebecca Reynolds
Heading for the classroom
By Renee Pearman
Rebecca Ann Reynolds, Warner Robins
Ann Reynolds stumbled upon a second career.
For years she was a mortgage loan officer, then two summers ago
“a friend of a friend” asked Reynolds and her 21-year-old son Travis
to work with the Houston County school system's Summer Enhancement
Program for gifted fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders.
“That first summer, I played piano for the choral group, and this
past summer I taught a class in mosaics,” Reynolds said. “I loved
it! My son told me now that he was out of college, it was time for
me to go back to college and become a teacher.”
She worried that she was too old and had been out of the
classroom too long, but her son convinced her that she would make an
ideal student and, ultimately, an ideal teacher. So she enrolled at
Macon State College and declared education as her major.
Her initial plan was to get an associate degree and transfer, but
then she heard the good news - Macon State will introduce a
bachelor's degree in education in Fall 2005.
“This is like an answer to a prayer,” said Reynolds, a native of
Cochran and 1974 graduate of Cochran High School “I was dreading a
commute and/or having to pay the higher cost at a private college.”
Reynolds and her husband moved to Warner Robins in 2002 when he
retired from the Air Force after 30 years of service. “We decided to
move back to Georgia to be closer to our families,” she said.
Because education courses will be offered at both the Macon and
Warner Robins campuses, Reynolds hopes to complete most of her
course work at the Warner Robins Campus where she currently attends
“With my classes being here at the Warner Robins Campus, plus the
affordable tuition, I will be able to turn my dream of becoming a
teacher into a reality,” Reynolds said. She's convinced that
returning to college to prepare for a second career was a smart
“Even though it's taken 30 years to get to this point, I feel
maybe my age of 48 has certain advantages,” she said. “I've worked
for over 25 years in jobs that were nice, but I was never really
passionate about them. I've been able to travel thanks to the U.S.
Air Force, and I've raised a family.”
Now she's looking forward to the day she steps into her own
“I hope that one day a child will say that I helped him find his
true passion, that he is in a career that he loves and that he
stayed in school and finished college because I made him realize
just how important a college degree would be to him and to his
Ashley Patterson, Macon
Currently, 22-year-old Ashley Patterson is a pharmacy technician
at a local super market. She likes her job, but she's always
believed that she belongs in a classroom - teaching.
When she enrolled in college several years ago, Patterson was a
pharmacy major “but that was for my family, not me,” she said. “I
decided to do what I have always wanted to do and that is to teach.”
So she changed her major to education. She expects to complete
her studies this spring then return in the fall to pursue the
bachelor of science in education.
“I would love to teach the fifth grade, and I also would be
interested in the fourth grade,” said the New York native who moved
to Macon 12 years ago.
A graduate of Windsor Academy, Patterson said she decided to
enroll at MSC “because it is close to home, and I feel comfortable
in a smaller school environment. I've really enjoyed all of my
education classes and each and every professor I've had in those
Patterson lives in Macon, works in Kathleen and attends classes
at the Macon and Warner Robins campuses. “Macon State offering the
bachelor's degree program will make life so much easier on me. I
will be able to live at home and keep my job,” she said.
A lesson she hopes to share with her future students is one she
has learned herself. “The one thing I would like for my future
students to learn from me is that no matter what happens, you are
always you no matter what another person might say to you,”
Patterson said. “You only have to be true to yourself and follow
your own dreams, not those of the people who surround you.”
Nicole Stover, Bonaire
Nicole Stover is going to continue a family tradition started by
her maternal grandparents. She is going to teach, and, if she's like
her parents and grandparents, she will be teaching for many years to
“I have not always wanted to be a teacher,” said Stover, who
remembers her parents arriving home somewhat weary at the end of a
school day. “However, after owning my own day care for five years
and receiving a lot of training in early education through the Air
Force, I learned that teaching comes very natural for me. I am sure
it has a lot to do with my upbringing.”
Stover's grandfather taught high school math and coached for 40
years, her grandmother was an educator for 30 years, and her father,
a high school math teacher in Floyd County, Indiana, for 33 years,
also coached and taught home-bound children.
Then, there's Stover mother, who has worked with pre-schoolers
through third-graders during her three decades in the classroom. She
is Stover's inspiration.
“My mother has taught me that there truly is no child who should
be left behind,” Stover said. “I remember her taking my dolls to the
underprivileged to play with. I remember picking up some of those
children on the weekends for a play date or church.
“Teaching goes beyond the classroom for her. I hope I can provide
an environment for the students in my class that mirrors the
environment my mother created. It was always a loving, nurturing
place to learn.”
A native of Kentucky, Stover moved to Indiana when she was a high
school freshman. She arrived in Central Georgia last year when her
husband was stationed at Robins Air Force Base.
During the day, she is a paraprofessional at Bonaire Elementary
School in Houston County. She also is a full-time evening student at
Macon State College.
“The fact that Macon State is offering this new bachelor's degree
could not have come at a better time for me,” Stover said. “I was
going to have to travel to do my (bachelor's degree) course work.
Besides, the tuition here is great, and the evening classes are nice
for people seeking degrees and working full time.”
Kristen Williams, Gray
Kristen Williams believes the Lord works in mysterious ways. It
was never her intent to become an educator. In fact, she hails from
a family of health care workers and law enforcement officers, “so I
automatically felt obliged to stay with tradition,” she said.
A 2000 graduate of Jones County High School, Williams enrolled in
Macon State's respiratory therapy program. Then, she explained, fate
took her in another direction.
She already was balancing college classes and a job at a
community golf course near her home in Gray when she learned about
an opportunity to do some substitute teaching at Califf Middle
School in Jones County to supplement her income.
“I fell in love instantly with teaching,” Williams said. “I felt
like I had found my niche. I connected with the students. I began to
question what my future might hold, so for a few more months, I
evaluated my experience and asked for guidance from a higher
authority, and that's when I realized that I wanted to be a
Since working in the education field, Williams, the mother of a
7-year-old, said she has become more aware of the shortage of
“I want to make a difference, and I think teaching children will
give me that chance. I think the reward of teaching will be knowing
that I taught something to these children that they will carry with
them for the rest of their lives,” Williams said.
About the time she made up her mind to change her major from
health care to education, Williams learned that Macon State was
developing a bachelor of science degree program in education.
“I originally enrolled at Macon State College because it's close
to home,” Williams said. “With the new education degree, I don't
have to worry about transferring and traveling to another college. I
am proud to be a student of MSC, and I would love to be one of the
first to graduate from this college with this new degree.”
Gerry Plant, Fort Valley
Gerry Plant has installed heating systems and air conditioners at
his father's business, and he's worked as an athletic trainer for a
college track and field team. But he's always wanted to teach.
This fall he will pursue that dream. He anticipates being a
member of the charter class of early childhood education majors at
Macon State College.
“I love kids. I love being around them,” said the 23-year-old
Fort Valley resident. “I've had other jobs. Since I was a kid, I've
worked with my dad, installing heating and cooling systems, but I've
always wanted to be a teacher and serve as a role model for
children. I want to help them learn how to lead successful lives.”
Macon State will be offering education classes at the Macon and
Warner Robins campuses, which, Plant said, will fit his schedule
while he earns the bachelor of science in education.
“I'm very excited about this new degree and the fact that it's
affordable and accessible for me” he said.
Shawonda Durham, Jeffersonville
At the age of 6, Shawonda Durham knew she wanted to be a teacher
when she grew up. She never changed her mind.
Now, she's very close to that goal. This spring she completes her
two-year studies, and in the fall, she hopes to start work on Macon
State's new bachelor of science in education.
“Earlier this year when I got that email on the student listserv
announcing the 4-year education degree, I was so very, very happy,”
said Durham, who is expecting her second child in August. “I was
afraid I was going to have to transfer to get my bachelor's degree,
and I knew that with two young children to care for, a longer
commute to school wasn't going to be possible for me.”
Durham, who lives in Jeffersonville, wants to stay in Twiggs
County and teach. She has been a math tutor through Macon State's
Minority Student Achievement Program, and she has volunteered at the
Twiggs County Comprehensive Middle/High School, her alma mater.
“I've just always wanted to be a teacher,” said Durham, who
credits her first-grade teacher, Dianna Goldsby, for serving as her
role model. “Ms. Goldsby was caring. She acted like we were her
children. She always had time for us.“
She's still teaching at Jeffersonville Elementary School, and I
often see her when I take my daughter to school. She remains such an
inspiration to me. I hope that, like Ms. Goldsby, my students
remember me 20 years from now.”
Uvanda Thomas, Warner Robins
Macon State sophomore Uvanda Thomas will complete an associate of
science degree in education this summer, then she'll return to the
college in the fall to join the charter class of early childhood
This has been her lifelong dream.
“I have wanted to be a teacher ever since I was 10,” Thomas said.
“My goals changed when I had my son. I became a stay-at-home mom for
a few years, then I decided to work in banking.”
A native Texan, Thomas said her Air Force family relocated a lot
while she was growing up. She graduated from Alexandria Senior High
School in Alexandria, La., in 1984 and later married into the
When her family was living in Germany where her husband was
stationed, Thomas said she got involved in her son's school, “and I
really enjoyed it. When we returned to the states, it was my dream
to pursue my goal of becoming a teacher.”
Later, her family moved to Maryland where she worked as a
teacher's aide at a local school, an experience that strengthened
her commitment to earn an education degree.
She arrived in Central Georgia in 2003 when her husband was
transferred to Robins Air Force Base. Although she is a full-time
student at Macon State College, she still makes time to do volunteer
work at Linwood Elementary School in Warner Robins.
To her, the college's new four-year degree in education is “a
blessing” because it puts her goal within reach, financially and
physically. And with that goal accomplished, she can focus on her
next, which is “to become an outstanding teacher, someone my
students can look to for encouragement and direction.”
Jessie Michie, Macon
Jessie Michie remembers tagging along to her mother's business
classes when she taught at Macon State College.
“My mom used to teach here years ago, and I would go with her to
class,” said Michie, who is now a sophomore at Macon State College.
“I loved to write on the chalk board, and I loved being around the
Michie's mother, Carol Fouraker, is one of the reasons she wants
to be a teacher. “She always pushed me to do my best,” Michie said.
“She was always there for me when I needed help with homework or a
school project or if I just needed some advice.”
A 2000 graduate of First Presbyterian Day School, Michie is an
assistant teacher at Ingleside Baptist Preschool. She attends
evening classes at Macon State. Her ambition is to earn a bachelor
of science degree in education from MSC and become an elementary
school teacher in Central Georgia.
Selecting education as a major was an easy decision for Michie.
“I love children. I love working with them,” she said. “I want to
be a teacher. The one thing I hope to teach children is that no
matter what their dreams are, if they believe in them, those dreams
will come true.”
She enrolled at Macon State because she wanted to stay home and
continue to work, “plus the tuition is affordable,” said Michie. For
her, the college's new bachelor's degree in education is icing on
Jennifer Colquitt, Macon
Jennifer Colquitt is a 22-year-old newlywed, who attends Macon
State College part time and works in retail sales full time. She
believes that “teachers make a difference,” and that's why she wants
to be one.
“I want to become a teacher because I love children, and I think
it is important for all of us to make sure that all children get a
proper education,” Colquitt said. “I want to be a teacher because I
want to make a difference in the lives of children.”
Like many education majors, Colquitt was thrilled to learn about
the college's baccalaureate degree in education.
“It's tough sometimes working full time, keeping a house and
trying to go to school,” she said, “but I love school, and I am
determined to graduate. I was so glad to learn about Macon State's
four-year education degree because being able to stay here is so
much more convenient and affordable for me.”
Holly Markert, Macon
As a mother of three, Holly Markert has witnessed the dedication
of teachers and the struggles of public school systems to find and
keep those educators.
“I have three boys, and one of them has autism,” Markert said. “I
have always been involved in my children's schools, and I had to be
trained to work with my son who is autistic. He is 12 now, and I
have had many years being around the education system. In that time,
I have developed a passion for learning, teaching and helping all
children, especially those with disabilities.”
A native of Albany, Ga., Markert moved with her family to Macon
in 1999. She already has an associate degree from Darton College and
has spent the past 16 years as a medical lab technician.
She enrolled at Macon State College last fall and has anxiously
followed the development of the college's new bachelor of science in
education. She has wanted to be a teacher for about 12 years, and
she said MSC is making it easier for her to earn a second degree and
make that career change. With a family and a job, Markert said
traveling to another college is not an option.
Her sons' teachers over the years have been an inspiration, just
as her biology and chemistry teacher, Mrs. Joiner, was back in
Markert's high school years. “She is the reason that I became a lab
tech,” Markert said. “She was incredible. She made learning fun.”
That's what Markert hopes to do.
Kennya Santana, Warner Robins
Macon State College sophomore Kennya Santana is still a few years
away from having her own classroom, but she already knows what
important lessons she wants to teach her young students.
“I want each of my students to learn that it is always important
to do your best, to always be yourself and to live your life to the
fullest,” said Santana, a Los Angeles native who moved to Central
Georgia with her family several years ago.
While completing her education degree, Santana, who is fluent in
Spanish, volunteers at Linwood Elementary School in Warner Robins,
working with children for whom English is a second language. In
fact, she wants to be an ESOL (English for Speakers of Other
Languages) teacher. “I love kids,” she said.
“I think they are so interesting. They are honest and real.”
A 2003 graduate of Northside High School in Warner Robins,
Santana enrolled at Macon State two years ago. She is a full-time
student attending classes at the Warner Robins Campus.
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