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Alumna Discusses Why She Chose Point Park for Bachelor's and Master's in Education

Friday, September 07, 2012

Pictured is education alumna Michelle Graham.

Meet Michelle Graham

Job Title: Third Grade ELA Teacher and Clinical Resident Instructor
Employer: Pittsburgh King Pre K-8, The Teaching Institute
Degrees earned:
Master of Education in teaching and leadership and Bachelor of Arts in elementary education, Point Park University; Associate of Arts in Teacher Education/Liberal Arts, Community College of Allegheny County
Graduation years:
2011, 2009 and 2007
Hometown:
North Huntingdon, Pa.
Now living in:
North Side of Pittsburgh, Pa.
Hobbies/interests:
Sports (particularly football, boxing, soccer and swimming) reading, and traveling

What inspired you to pursue a career in the education field?

This is always an interesting question for me to answer because I did not actively pursue a career in education. Instead, I feel that education actually chose me. I spent years as an office manager at a local grocery store, and when my children started kindergarten, I began volunteering regularly at their school. It started out being once or twice a week, but very quickly turned into every single day…and I still couldn’t get enough! At that point, I realized I was finally doing something I enjoyed and knew that education was my calling.

Why did you decide to attend Point Park for both your bachelor’s and master’s degrees?

I chose Point Park for many reasons. I considered numerous other options, but Point Park’s reputation vastly outweighed other local universities so it was an easy decision. I spoke with the most effective teachers that I had worked with, and found that the majority of them had graduated from Point Park. They talked so highly of the program and professors that there simply was no other option to consider after that. The rigor of my bachelor’s experience and relevance to 21st century teaching brought me immediately back for my master’s degree.

What are your favorite aspects of your job at Pittsburgh King K-8?

First, I love teaching in an urban setting and Pittsburgh King allows me that opportunity. The personal relationships I am able to create with my students are utterly irreplaceable as I work with some of the city’s less fortunate students.  Also, I love the ability to work as a teacher-leader within the district.  Our leadership work at the Teaching Institute puts Pittsburgh Public Schools prominently ahead of most schools throughout the nation when it comes to teacher effectiveness.  In addition, I really enjoy the equity work we are involved in at Pittsburgh King. Through this work, we have come to understand the impact of race on student learning and are investigating the role that institutionalized racism plays in perpetuating academic achievement disparities.

How would you describe Point Park’s education professors?

Point Park’s education professors are skilled, knowledgeable, experienced, amiable and extremely responsive to student needs. They know what skills are necessary for 21st century educators and mold each student individually to ensure they have attained those skills.  All of my professors were always open to suggestions, allowed room for multiple perspectives and made sure they were available to meet students’ needs — even if that meant long hours before and after class.

What advice do you have for education majors?

Go into education with an open mindset, energy, positivity, and a lot of patience. I can honestly say that my views, strategies, and skills change each and every school year and have come directly from all of my various experiences.  I know I would not be as effective had I not spent so much time in different locations and positions. I suggest getting into a school as soon as possible, even if it is just to observe or volunteer.  This will help you to mold your own views and expertise.  Also, don’t let the current state of education push you away from the field.  Be patient and proactive.  We need more teachers with the passion and drive needed to help change policy.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Point Park holds a special place in my heart outside of my degree experiences.  During my first year of graduate classes, I met my future husband who was in several classes with me.  Our “first date” was actually on a field trip with Dr. Vincenne Revilla-Beltrán’s human diversity class.  We are scheduled to be married on New Year’s Eve, 2012.  I can’t thank you enough for everything, Point Park!

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