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2015 Colleen Ritzer Scholarship Recipients Declaring Majors, Benefitting from Self-Discovery

Half-way through their second year in pursuit of an education degree, the 2015 recipients of a Colleen Ritzer Scholarship are formally declaring majors – some with double majors and concentrations – as their passion intensifies in pursuit of a career in education.  In addition to their formal classroom training, some are already venturing outside of the classroom where they are not only learning from their future peers, but they are also learning much about themselves.

St. Anselm College sophomore education major Casey Flanigan thoroughly enjoyed her Adolescent Literature and Calculus classes as she recently declared a double major in math and secondary education. When not in a college classroom, Flanigan volunteered in a special education class, which has deepened her interest in a career in education.

To the supporters of the Scholarship Fund, Flanigan offers her gratitude.

“I would like to say thank you so much to the supporters of this Scholarship,” Flanigan said. “This scholarship is incredibly generous and helpful to so many people.  Education is such an important profession and this Scholarship helps so many students continue their education and continue helping others.”

Becca Hardenstine, studying at Providence College, discovered a creative side in her education classes.

“I have learned that I am more creative than I previously believed,” shared Hardenstine. “For years I have avoided drawing, painting, or anything involving artistic abilities simply because I believed that I lacked the talent and creativity to be successful. Nonetheless, through lessons I have discovered that there is more to creativity than drawing pictures. Each week I would spend hours developing a lesson, and I always made sure to incorporate a fun activity. From creating visual aids for new vocabulary words to making activity sheets to even developing new literacy games, I found joy in being creative with each lesson and was proud of my work!”

Hardenstine recently declared a double major in elementary/special education and psychology in pursuit of a profession that she believes is “incredibly rewarding” and more than just teaching reading, writing and math. “With each student I help by building their confidence, teaching them social skills, and making them part of a community I will be molding their future, and the future of the world, no matter how miniscule,” she explains.

She also spend time working in a first grade classroom teaching literacy helping to develop young students into confident readers.

Meghan Johnson found significant interest in courses such as Understanding the American Middle & High School and Marine Ecology at Smith College. In her education classes, she, too, is learning about herself always seeking to improve to become an effective teacher.

Johnson has declared a double-major in education and child study and environmental science and policy and is already on track for teacher certification in middle school science and high school geology and earth science. While Johnson seeks to inspire and teach her future students, she has already thought how she can effect change on a larger scale.

“I have chosen to continue in a career path in education because I have become more and more passionate about the issues associated with the current state of our education system,” Johnson shared. “I have now started to consider teaching for some time before moving onto a career in policy where I would be able to make real change on a system that has seen little change for over a hundred years.”

The Scholarship has helped to form this potential future education reformer.

“The scholarship has had a huge effect in my ability to pursue higher education,” said Johnson. “I am able to go to school with less worry about financial problems. In addition, it helps remind me why I am in college pursuing a degree in education.”

In her education classes at Boston College, Haley O’Shea is discovering an even greater excitement for her chosen double major of secondary education and English with a concentration in special education.

“While taking education classes, I have learned just how passionate I am about my own love for learning and my desire to help students grow and discover who they want to be,” explains O’Shea. “The multiple education classes I am taking have given me an entirely new perspective on teaching, one that is so much more in-depth than it was even at this time last year.”

Her favorite class this semester? Adolescent Psychology, where O’Shea is learning about the physical, cognitive, and social changes that individuals undergo during adolescence, those individuals whom she will teach in but a few years.

During the summer, O’Shea served as a teachers’ aid in a summer literacy program for first and second graders facing challenges with reading. Each day, she worked with the students helping them to read and write complete sentences. “The growth I saw in my students truly reaffirmed my perspective as teaching as an incredibly rewarding career,” O’Shea said.

Colleen and the supporters of the Scholarship continue to inspire O’Shea.

“I am incredibly grateful for the money I have received, as it has certainly allowed me to continue my education at Boston College. Receiving a scholarship in Ms. Ritzer’s name has left an incredible mark on my life,” said O’Shea. “I am truly blessed to be able to honor Ms. Ritzer and her incredible legacy of kindness, and I think of her and the Scholarship donors each time I set foot in a classroom to teach.”

At Roger Williams University, Jenna Romano is learning the importance of making her voice heard and speaking her mind, attributes of an effective teacher who advocates for his or her students.

Romano, who has declared elementary education as her major, continues to demonstrate a strong passion for education sharing that she “would not want to do anything else.” This passion grows each day through experiences such as her placement in a fourth grade class where she creates lesson plans and enjoys watching the students grasp new concepts.

For Romano, the Scholarship is creating opportunities for her to pursue a degree in education.

“I am extremely thankful for all the support the Scholarship Fund has graciously provided me,” shared Romano. “I would not be where I am today without the help of the Scholarship and I will forever be grateful for all of the support they have offered that has allowed me to follow my dream of becoming a teacher.”

Bates College sophomore Sarah Rothmann recently declared a major in English with a minor in teacher education while engaging in field experiences in Lewiston Public Schools. In those schools, she volunteered in a life-skills classroom with children experiencing cognitive disabilities.

One of the more influential courses for Rothmann this past semester was Basic Concepts in Special Education.

“Through this course I have acquired the confidence and patience to teach various different kinds of students, all of whom have unique, personalized learning styles, while also learning about I can use the knowledge that I gain in the classroom to experiences in the Lewiston community,” Rothmann explains. “Through this course, and following Colleen’s legacy, I am eager to continue to learn more about special education as a teaching career and excited to see where the next couple of years take me!”