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Rollins Graduate Program, Fall 2003

In the beginning, when I strode into my first classroom to launch my teaching career after college, I found that I had also stepped into a microcosm of human relations. Surrounded by young minds, full of energy and coming from many diverse situations, my classroom quickly became a mini- society. Most of my life had been spent negotiating a balance between the human condition (environmental events and their impression on human consciousness), and human emotion (feelings derived from experience); I felt unusual empathy toward others and their experiences. Initially, I wasn’t aware of the impact this inner awareness would have on my classroom, but it served me well. Although our daily tasks consisted of the usual array of concepts to learn, I often explored with my students their motivations and, in turn, encouraged them to reflect on the choices they would make. The day I best understood the influence I had on my students was during the viewing of a cartoon about Galileo at one point in an astronomy lesson. We had discussed many times how important it was to have different points of view, and I would often settle issues with my kindergarten students by asking them to look at their peers’ faces and decide if the feelings they saw were ones they wanted to create. Often times, such self-reflection turned heated issues into tender apologies. Anyhow, my kindergartners were very impressed by the fact that Galileo was imprisoned for defying the church and arguing religious beliefs that had been held for what seemed an eternity. A few students didn’t understand why a religious group could be “so mean,” and the students began chattering about what they learned in their homes about God. This, in turn, generated a few differing opinions and bit of anger with a few students. Suddenly, one student, recognizing that all her peers were doing the same thing as the church with Galileo interjected by tapping my leg and asking, “Ms. Evelyn, lots of people can see God lots of ways, but we shouldn’t hate each other because we don’t agree, right? We are doing the same thing!!” I was astounded by the profound insight of a kindergartener, no less. Her point was well taken, as the whole group decided to cease fighting about their different outlooks. I had many such experiences with all age groups and, as our relationships grew in the classroom, I realized I wasn’t just teaching children the basic array of facts essential to educational success, but I was also involved in the tender arts of motivation, self-assessment, and goal setting, and the diplomacy of human development and emotion. I became not just teacher, but counselor, parent, social worker, and student. I observed, and oftentimes reflected on these issues, which frequently inspired a realignment of my teaching direction. Opportunities were born that helped my students become skilled at recognizing the ways in which they learned, the impact of choices they made, and the emotion that helped or hindered each one’s ability to triumph over challenges. After a decade of being a vital part of the learner experience, and moving from the world of child education to the world of adult learning, I became keenly aware of the impression I made on my students to positively and systematically “enlighten” them to both their capabilities, and to the influence they have on their own education and achievement. The academic lessons are only a resource they needed for success; it is their intrinsic self-awareness that gave them the tools to succeed. The satisfaction I gained from teaching came less from the act of teaching, and more from the experience of observing that delicate spark of self-realization in the eyes of those students receptive to the process of really learning. Thus, the catalyst to all these experiences is that my interests weren’t completely held in the pedagogy of my career, but in the human experiences found in my classrooms. I was, and continue to be, engaged in the practice of helping others become influential in their own learning and growth.

         My career has gone through some fascinating changes, from teaching elementary school, to showing my technical stamina as a technology professional, to consulting individual classrooms, to teaching adults in a college setting. Through these experiences, I also served as a student advisor, helping my students to keep their eyes on their goals and encouraging them to see their own potential. These same “people” skills contributed to my election as President of my Condominium Association. Again, I was challenged to both lead and manage a diverse set of minds within a small community.

          As I came to the decision to return to school myself, many of my friends and family members were a bit stunned that I didn’t pursue an academic degree in technology and/or instruction. It seemed to them that I would naturally fall into those careers at this point in my life. Certainly, I could spend hours meddling with computers, discussing a topic, troubleshooting and piecing together puzzles for clients, but the ultimate and most fascinating puzzle for me was in the interactions and exchanges with others.

          I’ve been an active participant in my own therapy and growth, taking time with each life transition to better understand and change the way that I deal with the world around me. Although far from perfect, I recognize how I play a role in my own successes and failures, by what I choose to do with my experiences and emotions. From a very young age, I’ve been exposed to the psychology of the human experience, working through issues within my own family’s dysfunction. I’ve managed to cope with and survive issues of alcoholism and abuse; I’ve learned about forgiveness, empathy and setting boundaries. The diversity of my life and career experiences have wondrously contributed to my future career in counseling. My greatest motivation is the knowledge that I can have a positive impact on the world. I have a profound interest in learning about human resiliency and positive psychology, not only to help me grow as an individual, but to better help others as they make their journey of self realization and growth. Hence, it is no surprise to me that I have come to the decision to return to school and pursue a counseling career.

          I have many high expectations of myself as a graduate student and potential counselor and am confident that my people skills, my drive for learning, and my love of teaching will lend themselves well to the Counseling Program at Rollins College. Eventually, I want to carry my skills as a counselor back into the classroom, and help others to learn, as I will never stray from my deep inclination to teach. Part of that journey includes my intention to pursue a Doctorate degree after my education at Rollins. I have several areas of interest, one in the area of family counseling, and the others in human cognition, intelligence, and resiliency. I want to build upon each of these interests in my counseling training. As far as I can see, human intelligence and the ability to learn and process has a lot to do with how we function in society and develop relationships.

         Seeking out a place to tend my educational garden has been an exceptionally interesting experience for me. While I could pursue a variety of graduate schools, from programs that are quick and easy to those more research-based, my deepest desire is to attend Rollins College as the ideal place for me to start planting my seeds. From the moment I walked onto the campus and began speaking to faculty, I knew I was on my way to having a wonderful experience. I appreciate that the atmosphere and faculty of a school are important factors in my college choice. The staff at a recent informational meeting I attended were centered and open and truly demonstrated a mentor-like relationship with the current students attending the Counseling Program at Rollins. Being a very intuitive and experience-based learner, my success is often dependent on that type of environment. It is obvious that Rollins not only offers a well-rounded and superb academic program, but the faculty reflects the same ideals, interests, and personalities that will cultivate my journey. Moreover, it is clear that the smaller more personal approach to training will be ideal for my success. The smaller campus encourages me to feel as though I am not just another number, but an integral part of the school. Likewise, the coursework reflects the kind of intellectually challenging content that my mind is so eager to begin consuming. Not only do I believe I will find success at Rollins College, but I am confident that Rollins College will find success with me!
I expect to come away from Rollins with the ability to fully utilize the knowledge and skills I’ve gained to develop a career in family counseling, with the goal of nurturing positive life-long learning and resiliency opportunities upon the trellis of both a counseling and teaching practice. As a result of my graduate education ahead, I fully plan to have a positive impact on the world.

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