What was your motivation for going to college and earning a degree? Who inspired or supported you in your college-going journey?
When thinking back about my plans to go to college in high school, if I’m being honest with myself, I had no plans to go to college, until I met Mr. Wojtowicz. My freshman English teacher, the late John Wojtowicz, saw something in me that other teachers didn’t. He told me I had promise and introduced me to the Iowa Talent Project, a program that was a gateway for minority students to get into college. He was my inspiration, but I honestly was driven by myself. As a first-generation student, no one else in my family had insight on going to college. I had to learn the ins and outs of it all by myself, this was definitely one of my biggest challenges. I made a lot of mistakes along the way, including starting with a major that I didn’t even graduate with, and that’s okay.
What advice would you give to a first-generation college student today?
Lean into the fact that you don’t know what you want to do, yet. This is my biggest piece of advice for first-generation students, as well as any student going to college for the first time. I changed my major three times before I found out that education was my passion, and I’m not frustrated by that like I used to be. I have so much additional knowledge to bring into the classroom because I allowed myself to find the right path. I also encourage first-generation students, who will probably be working just like I was, to find a job that cares about you, is flexible with your school schedule, and somewhat relates to your field of study. I went into a volunteer position that turned into a part-time paid position. It then turned into a lead classroom teacher position as I took more responsibility over the years. That experience opened my eyes to the wonders of working with diverse populations, gave me better management skills, and an understanding of how to work well with others. Caring for babies all day was an added bonus.
Tell us about the recent award you were honored with.
I just recently accepted the Innovation in Education’s Inspire Award through the Iowa City Area Business Partnership. It was such an honor to be nominated and receive an award like this. I have a mantra that I tell my students in the classroom, “Believe in you, because I believe in you”. It’s true. I believe that every single student in my class has the ability to succeed to be what they want to be in life. I feel like it’s my job to inspire them to keep going and help them get through the adversities they may be facing so that they can. I’m never going to stop doing it.
Taylor Scudder is a third-year teacher in the Iowa City Community School District. She currently teaches seventh grade Literacy and eighth grade Language Arts at Northwest Junior High. Ms. Scudder earned her BA in Elementary Education and a Certification in English and Language Arts from the University of Iowa. As a first-generation student and teacher, she has been working towards making the field of education more diverse and equitable for both students and staff.