Teacher Credential 2008
School of Education
April 1, 2008
DOE Scholarship Recipient Committed to Teaching in High Need Schools
Often times in life we have “aha” moments when we discover something about ourselves that is obvious to everyone but ourselves. In these moments we can choose to act on these insights or choose to ignore them. Before I made the decision to go back to school for my teaching credential, I took some time off to become a substitute teacher. This experience provided an “aha” moment and confirmed that I belong in a high need classroom.
I received my BA in Public Relations and my MA in Communication and Leadership from Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. When I was studying for my master’s. I taught a program called TISAM (Take It Seriously: Abstinance and Media, a program on media literacy) at a juvenile penitentiary school and at other high need schools in the Spokane area. These teenage students had a completely different mind-set than those I was used to teaching. My students were incarcerated and were not trusted by anyone they came into contact with. Early on I realized that in order to gain my students’ trust I had to learn to trust them.
Unlike any other teaching experience I have had, teaching in the penitentiary was the most rewarding experience I have ever had and led me to realize my calling as a teacher. I have found that I have a gift for getting students to not only open up, but also to care about their future even when it is “un-cool” for some of them to verbalize it. I believe that many teachers are intimidated by the tough exterior that many children in high need areas have learned as a form of self-protection from other students as well as from their everyday life at home. However, once these students know that there is a person who truly cares about them, they are just like any other child who needs hope and someone to believe that they can do it.
Teaching at the penitentiary is what caused me to want to become a teacher, and I fully intend to continue teaching in environments where I can make the most difference. I have just finished my first student teaching experience at Muir Fundamental in Santa Ana under the supervision of an amazing teacher, Karen Stepanski, who has been honored as Teacher of the Year. While at Muir I was able to use my background and training in the non-profit sector to get lunches donated from Wendy’s for the third grade students so the teachers would not have to spend their own money. I know that many of the students look forward to the special opportunity to have lunch with their teacher, and they work especially hard to achieve this. The long hours I put in at the site have been well worth every hour.
In November 2007, I was fortunate to be selected as one of UC Irvine’s four Golf Scholarship recipients. I am incredibly grateful to all the donors who made the scholarship possible and plan on dedicating myself in the classroom as one way of repaying all the help I have received. Someday I want to be able to help other students the way the Golf Scholarship has helped me with my schooling. Currently, when I am not working at Muir Fundamental, I have been training for a triathlon. I have run in a number of races, but my new challenge is to complete a triathlon.
Update: March 2009 – Ms. Westover currently is the Science Specialist at Lincoln Elementary School and Andersen Elementary School.