Student Spotlight: Emily Witek
Major: Teacher Preparation
Emily Witek readily admits to being a menace when she was in first grade. But it was the influence of her teacher that changed her attitude about education.
“I was not a fan of school or respecting authority, for that matter,” she said. “I don’t know how she did it, but my first grade teacher made me see how I could make the most of my days at school and how my attitude would affect my success. She really got me involved in helping her out with classroom tidiness, and I felt my presence was important. I went from rotten egg to teacher’s pet but, more importantly, my teacher shaped the way I looked at education and influenced the amount of effort I put in.
“She also made me realize I wanted to do the same thing for a child. I now know I want to be an elementary school teacher and pave the way to success for kids who don’t see their potential. I have so much going for me in my life, and some would think it’s silly to attribute a lot of that to one of my first teachers, but I honestly believe I wouldn’t be the person I am today without her influence in my life.”
Witek entered the Teacher Preparation program at College of DuPage. She’s paying for her own college, and being named a Presidential Scholar – and impressive award that includes a full-tuition scholarship and enrollment in COD’s Honors program and the Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society – helped her save for her transfer institution.
After graduating from COD with highest honors, Witek transferred to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and earned her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, with a concentration in Spanish and endorsements to teach middle school science, language arts and social studies. She finished at UIUC with a 4.0 GPA and was a Bronze Tablet recipient for being in the top 3 percent of her graduating class.
Witek currently works for District 205 in Elmhurst, where she is teaching seventh grade science. She is also one of eight teachers (out of 600) in the district piloting Project Lead the Way, which prepares students for today’s careers and gives them hands-on opportunities to create solutions to real-world problems.
“Personally, I learned how to be more independent by going to COD. Educationally, I was able to take classes that were actively engaging and challenging. They applied to my major and transferred to U of I,” she said. “It was great being at one of the best community colleges out there.”
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