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Dream of Teaching Made Possible for Three Staff

For three paraprofessionals in District 49, fitting college into their demanding schedule is a dream come true and a chance to cultivate their life’s mission. D49 recently partnered with Western Governors University to help staff members in support roles achieve their goal of becoming a teacher by presenting them with full-ride scholarships.

“I wish I had known all along that teaching was my calling. Instead, I spent years in the corporate world selling weddings,” shared Nicole Croney, paraprofessional at Woodmen Hills Elementary. “This scholarship is the opportunity for me to reach education and career goals, while making a difference in students’ lives – my ultimate goal.”

Each of the recipients will complete their bachelor’s degree and earn a teaching license with the Summit Scholarship. Staff receiving the scholarships are:

  • Nicole Croney from Woodmen Hills Elementary School
  • Michelle Graves from Horizon Middle School
  • Natasha Trapp from Vista Ridge High School

D49 offered the scholarships through an open application process to all staff in support roles across the district. A completed application included an essay about the staff member’s desire to become a teacher, along with a letter of recommendation from a building leader and current resume.

“We are incredibly excited about the opportunity to support several of our wonderful educational support staff in the pursuit of their teaching degree through this partnership with WGU,” shared Dr. Kathy Pickering, coordinator of professional learning. “This is an incredible opportunity for our district to ‘grow our own’ and support exceptional educators.”

A family member encouraged scholarship recipient Michelle Graves to reveal her love for helping students learn. “My little sister is the one who enticed me to enter the educational field,” she explained. “My students firmly believe they’ll never succeed in school. After building a rapport with them, it is so satisfying to help students figure out a problem or complete a project.”

The Summit Scholarship program is made possible through a partnership with WGU. The university’s mission is to create pathways to opportunity for more people, making it easier for individuals to further their education. Headquartered in Salt Lake City, Western Governors University is an online university that offers more than 60 degree programs.

Thanks to rewarding past experiences, all of the scholarship recipients have chosen to focus on teaching students with special needs. "Being a special education paraprofessional led me to find my true passion,” shared recipient Natasha Trapp. “I can't wait to one day have my own classroom and make an impact on the everyday lives of students. Thank you D49 and WGU for making my dreams come true."

Natasha Trapp, paraprofessional at VRHS, has a passion for serving students with special needs.     Michelle Graves, paraprofessional at HMS, is one of three staff members to receive a Summit Scholarship. .   Nicole Croney, paraprofessional at WHES, is ready to live her dream as a teacher.

Amy Matisek