A Career in Education Can Be Hard Work and Full of Challenges

A career in education can be hard work and full of challenges.

This December’s School of Education graduates have already put in a great deal of hard work and overcome a variety of challenges. COVID-19, of course, was a major factor in their education, but some of this year’s graduates had to overcome serious health issues, work multiple jobs and juggle raising children while taking classes. This December, 100 students are graduating with degrees from the School of Education, 55 with undergraduate and 45 with graduate degrees.

Here are the stories of four December graduates, recommended by their advisors, staff and faculty members, who’ve persisted in completing their education with excellent grades and praise from those with whom they’ve worked.

Jasmine Salton

Jasmine Salton is a familiar face to many in the School of Education. Since the Fall of 2019, she has worked at the front desk of the 2nd Floor Student Services office. When the question first came up at a meeting about which education students to select for the UWM commencement video, at least three people at the meeting immediately said, “Jasmine.”

She will be graduating with a degree in community education and engagement with a minor in counseling and will be featured in the video shown at commencement.

In addition to being the friendly face and a helpful resource at the front desk, she has worked two other jobs to finance her education – at a grocery store and the Shorewood Culver’s. A native of Milwaukee, Salton also earned multiple scholarships and found time to take on leadership roles on campus and in the community.

She has served as the vice president and secretary of the Black Student Union and has been a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority since 2021. In addition, she volunteered with the MPS Teacher Pipeline as a student speaker and with the Boys and Girls Club in the Greater Milwaukee area as a mentor.

School of Education December 2022 graduate, Jasmine Salton

Jasmine Salton

Her interest in community education grew out of her personality, she says. “I like being helpful and I’m outgoing. When I was in high school, I liked to talk to people about their futures. I knew I didn’t want to teach, but I knew I wanted to be part of the academic process. That’s what brought me to this field.”

Her job at the front desk helped her develop new skills in networking and a professional attitude. “It was a great job to have as a college student. “

She chose UWM because it was close to her home and family and very affordable. “This was the only school that offered a community education and engagement program that really fit with all the things that I wanted to do.”

After graduation, she’ll be starting a job at the new UWM Student Experience and Talent (SET) office, helping students find internships.

Kelsey Allen

Sometimes life throws you an unexpected challenge, just when you least expect it.

Kelsey Allen was on track for a May 2022 graduation and about to start her student teaching when she was diagnosed with cancer.

“I have had to stretch my degree longer than expected,” says the Neenah native. But after undergoing chemotherapy through the spring, she came back to do her student teaching during the fall semester. She is ready to graduate in December with a bachelor’s degree in K4-12 exceptional education with an Autism Spectrum Disorder certificate.

“She is doing a great job as an intern/student teacher in West Allis,” wrote Laura Owens in nominating Allen. “Her assignments are complete, she’s submitting great lesson plans and her reflections each week demonstrate deep thinking and understanding of her students.”

“It was the worst possible timing for me, because I wasn’t able to go to school and student teach,” said Allen. However, faculty members Laura Owens and Sarah Jozwik, helped her arrange her classes so she could complete courses she needed in an online or independent study format in the fall semester.

School of Education December 2022 graduate, Kelsey Allen

Kelsey Allen

Like many future teachers, Allen didn’t start out in education. “Originally, I began in business for a semester, but it wasn’t a good fit for me at all. Then I went into occupational therapy, and found myself doing therapy with kids with autism.

As she did job shadowing in the field, she realized she wasn’t spending as much time as she wanted with each child. “I didn’t really feel the impact or have the time I wanted to spend with the kids,” she said. “That’s why I went into teaching so I could spend every day with them and see their progress and be part of it.”

She had also been inspired by her work with autistic students while in college.
Right now, she’s finishing up her student teaching – Teaching and Learning graduates who attend commencement in December need to complete their student teaching and licensing requirements so they won’t be starting jobs until after late January.

Allen has worked in a combination of classroom types in her internship and student teaching in West Allis — working in general education classrooms supporting students who need extra support and in classrooms where all the students have individual education plans. Working with many students who are nonverbal is challenging, but rewarding, she says. “I do feel like I’m building a relationship with them, even though I can’t talk to them. They’re like my little best friends that I hang out with every day.”

She still faces her own challenges, having to take time off for medical appointments and checkups following her cancer treatment, but “everybody has been pretty understanding.”

Most of all, she’s happy she will be graduating in December.

“With all the help, I’m so glad I didn’t have to push it back an entire year.”

Amber Macklin

Choosing an area of study is often a mix of passion and practicality.
Amber Macklin loves art, but realized when schools faced budget cuts, the arts were often the first to be eliminated from programs. So, in planning her career in education, she looked for subject areas where teachers were in demand. Mathematics popped to the top of the list.

But she’s managed to combine both subject areas in her career planning. She’s graduating in December with a bachelor of science degree in elementary education with a minor in mathematics and a certificate in arts integration.

The path wasn’t always straightforward. She came to the School of Education as an older, nontraditional student. She and her husband Roger have four children, 11, 8, 5 and 2 years old, which required a lot of juggling in her family life.

Her interest in education was fostered by teachers she had in her first six years of elementary school at a Milwaukee public school focusing on arts and humanities. “The teachers there, including all the administration staff, they really connected with every student and with families.”

In high school, she attended three different schools and was able to observe the approaches.

A visit to the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design inspired her interest in art, and that was her first choice for college. But then she changed her focus to mathematics, and she and her husband got married and moved out of state for his career in the army. She kept that dream of becoming a teacher while they moved around the country. She took some classes at a university in Washington. However, she and her family were living in Kentucky at the time and the degree required some in-person work.

When the family moved back to Milwaukee, her husband encouraged her to go after her teaching dream.

“UWM was the closest school that I knew of where I felt comfortable that I would receive the education I wanted,” says Macklin. The fact that the university offered benefits for veterans and their families was a bonus.

School of Education December 2022 graduate, Amber Macklin with students in her classroom

Amber Macklin with students in her classroom

Going to school full-time and doing student teaching with four young children was still a challenge. “It did involve some sacrifices,” she says. However, her husband was her biggest supporter and her parents helped out with all the childcare and support needed to keep family life steady. Faculty members Angel Hessel, Danielle Robinson, and Liz Daniel were supportive, and especially helpful during the challenges of the pandemic, she says. Her cooperating teacher at IDEAL, Nicole Mack, has also been a big supporter of her journey, says Macklin.

And, Macklin adds, Jenny Brownson, a faculty member in Teaching and Learning, saw the artistic side of her teaching. Brownson introduced her to Arts Eco, a collaborative program between the School of Education and the Peck School of the Arts. That program helps teachers learn how to integrate arts and social justice in their classrooms and make connections in the local arts community.

Through Arts Eco, Macklin received a grant and did an internship at the Lynden Sculpture Garden. Those experiences and the arts certification have encouraged her to creative in her mathematics teaching, she added.

Many students have negative attitudes toward mathematics, and that’s something she wants to change when she gets her own classroom. (Like other Teaching and Learning winter graduates, she’ll be completing her student teaching in January and then applying for certification after that.)

She is glad she made the sacrifices, she says.

“It’s been hard, but at the same time knowing that my children know why I’m going to school makes it better. I like knowing you can have a family and still achieve and do what you want to do. I guess the moral of my story is ‘never give up’.”

Addison Sagat

Like many of the School of Education’s December graduates, Addison Sagat saw the COVID pandemic from both sides – learning to be a teacher in unusual circumstances and working with children coping with the pandemic and its aftereffects.

“I’d say my cohort and the ones above and below us had the unique experience of being a student during COVID and being a teacher during COVID,” she says. “So, I think we’ve learned both sides of the challenge.”

Online learning and teaching presented obstacles, but also some new opportunities, Sagat says.

“It’s changed every aspect of the world and there’s no denying that,” she says, but at the same time teachers and others have benefitted from learning new technology, she adds. For example, virtual meetings – that might not have happened three years ago – have become regular parts of life.

At the same time, Sagat is still seeing the impact on schools and students, even the first graders where she is student teaching at General Mitchell School in the West Allis-West Milwaukee School District.

“There are things that have held students back, unfortunately because they were out of school and not socializing and not just living a normal life.”

School of Education December 2022 graduate Addison Sagat displaying a book for students in her classroom

Addison Sagat displaying a book for students in her classroom

While older students and adults can remember what life was like before and readjust and adapt, the little ones she works with haven’t had that experience. Academically, she has students who come to the classroom not knowing their letters from numbers. However, the social experience of the classroom is also new to them, Sagat adds.

In addition to student teaching, she’s worked as a nanny and in a childcare center. Behavior changes are one thing that she has noticed, she says, that really impact the classroom.

“Kids just stopped socializing with each other during that time,” she says. “Now they need to learn how to be a community.”

Along the way as she prepares to become a teacher, Sagat says she has had the support of her cooperating teachers and faculty members like Angel Hessel, distinguished lecturer in Teaching and Learning, and Tara Serebin, lecturer and director of the elementary education program in Teaching and Learning.

However, as she finishes her education and student teaching over the coming month, Sagat is determined to fulfill her lifetime dream of being a teacher.

“I’ve wanted to be teacher actually since kindergarten. I remember other kids saying they wanted to be a vet or an artist and I’m like, ‘I want to be a teacher.’”

She loved to play school growing up and hung out with her mom at the school supplies store. “So, I’ve always just loved the idea of being a teacher and being around kids.”

Sagat started at UW-LaCrosse, but transferred to UWM.

“I just liked the flexibility of being close to home and getting a really valuable and solid education.”

“It seemed to go really fast,” she says of the upcoming commencement. “I’m definitely ready and I feel prepared. At the beginning of my journey, I didn’t think I’d end up here, but I’m glad that the roads led me here.”