This interview was part of a series of interviews of former students, used in a campaign to increase enrollment.
Subject: Kayla Kenney
Children often want to grow up to be policemen, firemen, or doctors-or maybe just follow in mom or dad's footsteps. But career aspirations change as frequently as toys, and many young people graduate from high school still not knowing what they want to do.
Kayla Kenney was not like that. The native of Goodells, Michigan, was one of those who found her life's mission while still in high school.
"I was a senior at Port Huron High, and became a student aid to a teacher. I loved being around kids. I felt very comfortable with them. I knew right then exactly what I wanted to do," she says.
Further education was the next step. She had heard positive reports about St. Clair County Community College from her older brothers, both of whom had attended. College tuition wasn't in the family budget, but "I had a good job at the time, so I could live at home, pay for my tuition, and go to school at the same time."
Since SC4 partners with several universities, Kenney tailored her courses to match university requirements for a four-year teaching degree. Kenney finished her studies last May at Saginaw Valley State University, and received her BA in Elementary Education. "I was able to stay at home and work the whole time I studied at both SC4 and SVSU," she explains. "I took my SVSU courses on-line." She had much more than a BA, though. Since she wanted to take every prep class she could locally, she wound up earning three associate degrees from SC4-in General Education, Art, and Science.
Kenney graduated and was eager to teach, but only a few substitute positions were available locally. She looked on the scarcity as an opportunity. "I'd lived at home my whole life, so I thought this would be a good time to see the world-I'd go where the jobs were!"
She considered openings in North Carolina and Georgia, but heard by word-of-mouth that there was a very good school district in Florida, so she went there last spring break and interviewed at several schools. She was offered a position teaching 6th grade math at East Naples Middle School in August, and moved to Florida on her own before the current school year.
Kenney's studies at SVSU made her more than ready to work full time. "The SVSU teachers' program is geared to put you in the classroom ASAP. It's the best thing you can do for a new teacher." Kenney had objective feedback about the quality of her preparation as well. "My principal is very impressed with me as a first year teacher, how I handle myself in the classroom and with my kids," she says. Kenney also works alongside teachers hired from other states, and has seen how unprepared many of them were in class management and time management. "The training at SVSU was demanding, but the amount of experience they gave me was outstanding. It was a great program.
"And I keep learning every day. I've learned so much in my first year from both my coworkers and my kids!" Kenney likes being on both sides of the teacher's desk, though. She will return to school to start her master's degree in Middle Level Education in May, at Walden University. All of her classes will be on-line.
"I had lots of great educators while I was growing up," she says, "but I can look back on a couple that I still use today as my role models. One was Mr. Landers, who taught 4th grade when I was in elementary school. The way she got along with us kids was wonderful, and I sometimes do the same things with my kids that she did with us.
"The other was my 7th-grade math teacher, Charlie Winters. He made math exciting for us. That's what I try to do, too."
Role models are helpful, but knowing what you want can be the biggest inspiration of all. "I hope to return to Michigan some day, but I'm not disappointed to move away. I would have gone anywhere to teach."