Traintracks on Campus

Impact 2019

EdPros Career Community transforming student experience into fulfilling, lifelong career

For Elyse Salpekar ’19, the most eye-opening aspect of spring break 2019 was seeing all the different types of public schools in Boston.

Elyse was one of a dozen students visiting the city with Grinnell College’s Education Professions Career Community, often called EdPros for short. The group visited a charter school, a bilingual school, an international school, and an exam school – each had a different vibe and population of students.

“I was really struck by the differences among the teachers in the different schools in terms of how content in their positions they appeared, their levels of stress, and their manners of interacting with students,” Elyse says. “As someone who will hopefully be teaching full time in about a year, I did a lot of reflecting on the type of setting that I think constitutes a positive learning environment.”

A group picture of the Ed Pros trip to New England.
EdPros students are pictured with Aileen Sullivan, center, 2018 Iowa Teacher of the Year, after Sullivan shared insight about her career as a high school chemistry teacher.

Elyse’s Bostonian experience illustrates why the Center for Careers, Life and Service (CLS) began career communities.

Penny Sebring ’64 and Charles A. Lewis spurred the creation of EdPros in 2013-14. They advocated for having a way for talented students interested in teaching – or working in educational administration, research, and policy; school counseling; and international education – to build field-specific knowledge and enhance professional and job-seeking skills.

In subsequent years, the CLS added six other career communities – Arts, Media, & Communications; Business & Finance (also thanks to a gift from Sebring and Lewis); Government & Social Service; Health Professions; Law; and STEM. EdPros provided a model upon which the other career communities could expand for their specific needs.

Numerous EdPros events, activities, and speakers have empowered students to live, learn, and work with meaning and purpose, and show how an education career is a blend of one’s professional, personal, and civic aspirations, says Leslie Bleichner ’07, the Lawrence S. Pidgeon Director of the Education Professions Career Community. All of these elements are made possible by donor support for the CLS. These gifts have given students a competitive edge in their professional development and built field-specific knowledge.

Elyse’s favorite event was called Teacher Talks, a cooperative discussion between a Grinnell College professor and a Grinnell High School teacher. Each talk had a specific topic such as group work or choosing appropriate literary texts. The talks have stayed with Elyse, and she is putting what she learned into practice this year as a student teacher in Spanish and ESL for Marshalltown, Iowa, schools.

The largest impact of EdPros in Elyse’s world have come through strong friendships, and the formal and informal mentoring relationships based on an overarching interest in some form of education.

“Through EdPros, I was able to find role models to look up to as I navigated the teacher licensure program,” she says. “As a senior and now an alumna, it’s been exciting to be able to provide that same sort of mentoring to younger students.

Over the last four years, EdPros graduates have landed education jobs in many areas, such as the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, the Japanese Exchange Program, and the Uncommon Charter Network in Massachusetts. Others have gone to graduate programs at Harvard and John Hopkins, or service-programs like Fulbright English Teaching Assistantships.

Kaydi-Ann Newsome ’14, a teacher at Trinity Secondary School in London, joined the first cohort of EdPros because it was a “brilliant opportunity for skeptics like herself.” While Kaydi-Ann knew education was her vocation, she needed guidance to map out career options.

Through EdPros, she gained access to alumni who were working in education and who inspired her to think outside of the box with regards to life after Grinnell.

“Those opportunities helped me to soften up to the idea of becoming a classroom practitioner while making me even more prepared to work actively outside the classroom to effect the change I want to see.”

— by Jeremy Shapiro