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 wanted to pave the way to success for kids who don’t see their potential. I have so much going for me, 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 was paying for her own college, and being named a Presidential Scholar—an 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 money for her four-year 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 previously worked for District 205 in Elmhurst, where she taught seventh and eighth grade science. She was one of eight teachers (out of 600) in the district who piloted Project Lead the Way, which prepared students for careers by giving them hands-on opportunities to create solutions to real-world problems. She is now in Indianapolis teaching eighth grade science.
Witek knows teaching will be a life-long career and enjoyed her time at COD, which provided opportunities for educational and personal growth.
“I learned how to be more independent by going to College of DuPage,” she said. “I was able to take classes that were actively engaging and challenging. They applied to my major and transferred to U of I. It was great being at one of the best community colleges out there.”