Sunshine’s ultimate goal was to become an elementary school teacher. She was a first generation college student with no idea of what to expect or what it meant to get a college education. She was intimidated by the daunting task ahead of her. To reach her goal, she had to break everything into manageable short-term goals. The hardest step was the easiest part of the process: applying to Lane and getting started. Sunshine tried to talk her way out of the placement tests, thinking that her skills had likely atrophied since graduating from high school. However, she had underestimated herself; the placement tests put her in the perfect classes to get her started on her journey. From that point on, her goals were set in a term-by-term timeframe. Before she knew it, she earned her Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer degree, was accepted in the University of Oregon’s Integrated Teaching program, and obtained both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
Sunshine did not balance school and life as gracefully as others did. First, she tried to continue working while attending classes part time, but she found her life fragmented into family, work, and school. Each piece had its own set of unique demands without enough time in the day to meet them all. With the blessing and support of her husband and daughter (then in first grade), she quit her job and went to Lane full time, which allowed her to focus on her coursework and goals and balance her studies with parenting.
Sunshine often found herself among the oldest, if not the oldest, in her classes, but she realized that her age and prior work experiences could be an advantage. After all, if she could work hard for thirteen years to benefit a company, she could easily invest at least that same amount of dedication to her own education. By shifting her thinking, college became enjoyable. This hard work was an investment in her future.
Several instructors at Lane assisted Sunshine towards her goals. Both Margaret Bayless and Eileen Thompson helped Sunshine develop confidence in her writing abilities. Vicky Kirkpatrick made the Math 211, 212, and 213 sequence fun and applicable. In addition, Merrill, who taught the Education Foundations sequence, helped her create a foundation on which to base her pedagogical approach to teaching and learning. Merrill pushed her to evaluate herself and her own academic experiences, reflect on what students really need, and develop creative and engaging lesson plans. She took advantage of the opportunities to meet mentor teachers and work in a variety of elementary classrooms. Sunshine believes that her acceptance to the University of Oregon’s Integrated Teaching program and the academic scholarship she later received were a result of the knowledge and skills she gained from Merrill.
As a teacher, every day is filled with little successes: that “ah-ha” moment when a student finally understands a concept, watching a classroom of fully engaged students work together to solve a problem, and when she learns something new from her students.
Sunshine encourages incoming students who intend to transfer to a four-year university to check out the AAOT. The University of Oregon accepted it without question, and she entered as a junior. Several classes were waived, and the only classes she needed to make up were specific to her major.
She is currently completing her fifth year teaching and is in love with this profession. She plans to continue refining her practice and working toward becoming the best educator to those she serve.