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Graduate Spotlight - Wendy Surak
Early Childhood Education, December 2017
"When I was a kid, I thought I had the meanest kindergarten teacher, but then I had one amazing experience with her that changed everything…. I’ve wanted to be a teacher ever since."
This fall, nearing the end of my degree in the Early Childhood Education program at Mid-State, I opened my own in-home daycare, Wendy's Wonders Childcare. After learning so much about the way children need to be treated and how to educate them, I’ve been more effective with my own children, but I couldn’t wait to start caring for and educating young minds for a living.
Going all the way back to childhood, my path has been a bumpy one. When I was a kid, I thought I had the meanest kindergarten teacher, but then I had one amazing experience with her that changed everything. When we came to a disagreement one day, I called her a name—a pretty bad one. The way she responded was incredible. Instead of getting angry, she treated me with kindness and understanding. She said, “That’s OK,” and went on to explain herself in a way I could understand. I’ve wanted to be a teacher ever since.
When I went back to school, I was a single mother at the time, enlisted in the Army reserve. I thought about UW-Stevens Point and schools in Madison, but with a child in school I needed to stay closer to home. What sealed my decision was how I was treated when I looked into Mid-State. They were just more willing to work with me and get me enrolled in classes, even though I would be starting a bit late. This is when I met April Hartjes, the Early Childhood Education instructor. She got me signed up for classes even before my admission paperwork was final.
I expected a lot of homework, I expected college to be difficult. And there was a lot, and it was hard at times, but April was outstanding. Coming back from mobilization with my Reserve unit, I was diagnosed with PTSD and hearing loss and needed some accommodations. April was more than willing to make adjustments for me in any way I needed. I would stay late after class, and she would go over things with me. With everything going on, school sometimes felt like too much, but with her support I kept succeeding.
Before Mid-State I never really tried much in school or had the encouragement to get good grades, but college has been different. I decided at the start, I'm going to do this for me. Approaching graduation, I can now say that keeping my grades up has been my greatest achievement. I have striven to get an A or B+ in every class, and I even made the Dean’s List one semester and will graduate with high honors from my program. The secret for me was just to find a way to put a little more of myself into it—find a way to go above and beyond. I also couldn't have done it without the support of my family and encouragement from my fiancé.