After working as a teaching assistant in a kindergarten class, Zipporah Whiteman, ’18, M.A. in Teaching, came to Meredith College to develop her passion for education. Empowered by her Meredith experience, she looks forward to a career working with English as a second language (ESL) students.
Through her volunteer work with the kindergarten class, Whiteman was eventually recommended for a position as a teaching assistant at the school.
“I was a stay-at-home mom for seven years. I’ve always enjoyed reading and literacy and teaching my girls,” said Whiteman. “As a teaching assistant, I found I wanted to do more of that.”
She discovered an interest in working with ESL students in particular. “One of my students in the class spoke Spanish and was struggling the first few weeks. It was such a joy to see how he transformed from struggling with his English and adjusting to the class to being so much more confident.”
Knowing she wanted to continue her education, Whiteman decided to attend a graduate education workshop at Meredith. The fact that she could attend the two-and-a-half-year Master of Arts in Teaching program part time appealed to her. She became interested in the ESL program and was encouraged by the high employment rate of Meredith education students.
At Meredith, Whiteman was pleased by her professors’ efforts to be inclusive and socially aware. She also liked the smaller class sizes. Having completed her undergraduate degree at a larger university, she enjoyed the opportunity to form stronger relationships with her faculty. Not only did she feel they truly cared for her on an individual level, but she appreciated that her professors shared their own lives with her.
During her studies, Whiteman faced challenges, such as balancing school, work, and life, as well as having to maintain focus on her coursework through family illness and personal stresses. “I have to carefully maintain my schedule. Being a substitute teacher, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, is a challenge.”
Because of all these other demands, sometimes looking at the syllabus at the beginning of a semester was overwhelming for Whiteman. “My professor told me not to look at everything at once: just take it bit by bit. It will fall into place. That was a good piece of advice.”
Despite these obstacles, Whiteman has found ways to navigate them and has come out stronger on the other side. “I’ve had to focus on the advice my grandmother gave me: always keep your faith, keep your sense of humor, and this too shall pass.”
At Meredith, Whiteman built on her personal strengths and the strong example set by her mother to establish herself as a role model for her daughters.
“I like the Meredith motto: ‘This is what strong looks like.’ It reminds me of my father. He’s been through a lot in his life, and he has persevered and taught me and my siblings how to face challenges directly. That’s how you get stronger and how you learn.”
She found opportunities to strengthen her voice and her willingness to use it and was encouraged by professors to speak her mind and advocate for her beliefs. “I’ve learned I have more in me than I thought I did. I’ve learned I can speak up when I need to.”
In the future, Whiteman hopes to find a position teaching ESL students that will still allow her to dedicate time to her daughters and their education.
“I may not be where I want to be yet, but I’m getting there. Meredith has given me a stronger mindset.”