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An Adult Learner's Journey to Success

Bean - Main Photo

Double Gull, Jessica Bean A’18 ‘20, has reached some very ambitious goals over the last two years, and she attributes much of her success to the support she received from Endicott College’s Van Loan School of Professional Studies.
By: Rosemary Poppe
Double Gull, Jessica Bean A’18 ‘20, has reached some very ambitious goals over the last two years, and she attributes much of her success to the support she received from Endicott College’s Van Loan School of Professional Studies. Prior to enrolling in Van Loan’s associate program, Bean’s career path lead her from administrative and executive support roles to working in education, which is where she discovered her true passion for teaching. Navigating through both the associate and bachelor’s programs allowed her to define her professional goals, increase her knowledge base, and renew her self-confidence.

A few years ago, Bean began working part-time at a local elementary school as a noon supervisor and eventually became an Educational Support Paraprofessional in Special Education at Gloucester High School. She fell in love with the work, and seeing her commitment to the field, her fellow colleagues encouraged her to return to school so that she could advance her career in the field of education. Her friend recommended that she reach out to the Van Loan School (VLS), as the adult learning programs are geared towards working professionals. After her first conversation with a VLS staff member, Bean felt right at home.

Having spent 20 years in the workforce, she brought a lot of experience to the table, and that doesn’t go unnoticed by VLS. In fact, at Endicott, we believe that students deserve credit for their work and life learning, and we encourage our adult learners to take our Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) courses. These three-credit courses offer a personal tour of reflection, retrieval, and writing processes, wherein students create a digital portfolio that documents their professional and personal expertise. Looking back on the PLA experience, Bean says, “The process gave me a lot of validation—it was eye opening and gave me more confidence.”

“For years I had felt bad about not having my degree and the career choices that I made, but I realized that there was thought behind my career decisions. Being able to reflect through PLA was a gift, when I look at myself as to why I made those decisions, they were good and smart choices.” Bean’s previous work experience earned her five courses worth of credit towards her Associate degree and another five towards her Bachelor’s.

Bean - InsetBean took a mixture of in-person and online courses, and says that, “Time and time again there were professors who built me up and helped to build the bridge between my academic experience and becoming a teacher. I was able to work with other students from other parts of the country, and even from other countries, who exposed me to new ideas, and cultures, which is helpful when dealing with English Language Learners (ELL) as a teacher. She says, “I wasn’t only learning the class material, I was also learning from my professors how to teach and how to help students learn to write. It made me a better teacher and a better person.”

Bean developed a camaraderie with her fellow students, many of whom, like her, have families and found it challenging to balance all of their responsibilities. In addition to the support she received from her fellow students and professors, Bean’s husband, Rich and daughter, Emily continually encouraged her to reach her goals, and she made a conscious effort to carve out time for her family, work, and academic responsibilities. Every Sunday, armed with her weekly planner, Bean would sit down and draft out the week ahead—down to the hour. Her directives included items like, time reading with her daughter, date night with her husband, and time to physically go to the Endicott library to study. Creating a schedule allowed her to focus on one task at a time, that being said, she recognizes that “life happens, but a schedule makes managing it easier.”

Working as a teacher’s aide and taking courses on that subject area at the same time, “was like two rivers coming together.” The concepts she was learning in class were becoming evident in her own work, and this inspired her thesis topic, “Bridging the Gap Between High School and Employment for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities”. She says, “while working with special education students, I was finding that they were often pigeon-holed, and realized that we should be teaching to their talents.” Less than a month after she presented her thesis, she was given the opportunity to finish the year as a long-term substitute for the Transition Special Education teacher.

Bean was conducting the substitute role with great success, and contingent on the receipt of her teaching certificate, she was offered the full-time position as of the following school year. At this year’s 2020 virtual commencement, Bean received her Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies, with a concentration in Educational Studies, Summa Cum Laude (for the second time)—she’s passed her five MTELs—and will soon be awarded her teaching certificate. As of September, the full-time role of Special Education Transition Teacher will be hers, and she’s prepared for it!

On May 21, this year’s Commencement date, Bean’s colleagues surprised her “with a parade of honking cars—decorated with balloons—in addition to cards, presents, cupcakes, and well wishes!” On the 6th of June, our graduates will be able to download their diplomas, and her husband and daughter are going to host a commencement ceremony for her in their backyard. In September, she will begin her new full-time role as well as her Master’s of Education in Special Education, for Licensure in Moderate Disability, Grades 5-12—that’s right—Bean is unstoppable. She leaves us with this note, “Endicott is a great place to go, it really feels like a family and I would recommend it to anyone. Just talk to someone, they will make you feel more valued immediately and ready to go back to school.”

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