Georgia Gwinnett College student to give back to community as a special education teacher
Alma Eligio of Norcross knew that she wanted to teach someday. She always looked up to the teachers at Meadowcreek High School, especially the special education staff dedicated to helping the students who needed it the most.
She spent time getting to know her high school’s special education staff, who inspired her to pursue a college degree in special education.
Eligio tried a couple of large schools in her early days of college. She had some trouble finding a comfortable environment. She eventually became attracted to Georgia Gwinnett College (GGC) because of its proximity to her home and the community in which she grew up, as well as its affordability, small class sizes and diverse student body.
“I felt that by going to a smaller school, I’d have more time with my teachers” Eligio said.
At GGC she found several professors who were willing to help her in her educational journey. She said she remembers fondly the assistance she received from Dr. Jennifer Greene, assistant professor of literacy education and Eligio’s first instructor she had after enrolling in GGC’s teacher’s preparation program.
“She was very patient. She was always there to teach me,” Eligo said. “Even though it was my first class, the things that she taught us are things that I’m going to use forever.”
Eligio also said she has fond memories of Dr. Mary Kelly, associate professor of teacher education, who was “a constant source of advice.” As one of Eligio’s points of contact during the field experience portions of her studies, Kelly always made herself available to help her students, said Eligio.
“She showed me from the beginning that she would always be there for me as a teacher and as a friend,” she said.
Eligio’s most important experience was gained through the field experiences in Gwinnett County Public Schools. GGC’s special education majors are certified to teach K-12, so Eligio obtained field experience for elementary, middle and high school levels.
“Every teacher you’re placed with is totally different,” Eligio said of the teacher-mentors to whom she was assigned for her field experiences. “You’re going to learn something from them at all times.”
Despite feeling unprepared at the beginning of her two years of field studies, Eligio quickly learned strategies from her mentors.
As her training drew to a close, Eligio felt a calling to work at the elementary school level and was able to obtain a position at Meadowcreek Elementary – the same school she’d attended as a child.
Eligio feels confident that she’ll be able to live up to the examples set by her role models, and give her students every educational opportunity they need to succeed.
“I don’t know how to describe it. It’s what I’ve always wanted,” Eligio said. “I’ve been in school so long that I just can’t believe that it’s happening. I just know that I’m going to see every kid I work with just like the little me who used to be there.”
A first-generation college graduate, Eligio will join more than 800 of her classmates at GGC’s virtual commencement, scheduled for 10 a.m., Aug. 8. The ceremony can be viewed at www.ggc.edu/commencement.