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WGU Graduate Speaker, Misty O'Brien
WGU Graduate Speaker, Misty O'Brien
Western Governors University
<p>Saturday, June 8, 2019 WGU Commencement in Anaheim, California. Misty O'Brien was a graduate speaker. Misty O'Brien earned a Bachelor of Arts, Special Education degree.</p> <p>Transcription of video:</p> <p>Spencer Stewart: And now we have the privilege of hearing from two graduates. They are: Kiran Shaikh, Bachelor of Science, Health Informatics from Chicago, Illinois. And Misty O'Brien, Bachelor of Arts, Special Education, from Spokane Valley, Washington. [Applause] </p> <p>Misty O'Brien: Good job, Kiran. Hi, I'm Misty O'Brien, I'm graduating with a bachelor's of special education. When I graduated from high school, we had opened a time capsule that had been created 18 years earlier when we were all in the first grade. I had received a piece of paper on which I colored and written all my favorite things. Perhaps for me, the most telling was that six year old me had said, "When I grow up, I want to be a teacher." </p> <p>In all honesty, at 18, ready to head out to college, being a teacher wasn't even something I considered. I sort of laughed at childhood me because at that time, I wanted to do so many different things but none of these things put me in the classroom in front of students. </p> <p>So time went on, and when I was 24, I married my husband, Dan. We started a family. And in 2006, our first son, Ian was born. He was a typically developing child. He talked, he walked, he hit all of his milestones. But after his first birthday, his language regressed. It was to a point where it was non existent. And right before his third birthday, he was diagnosed with autism. </p> <p>We worked hard to give him the best services, and he worked hard to learn how to use language again. He had to learn how to play with other kids, to practice social skills. I was in awe of his commitment. Ian, you are the epitome of hard work and dedication. [Applause] And as we worked with him and his IEP team, I started to feel a calling. Six year old me in that way back time machine in 1989 must have had a crystal ball, because in 2014 I took a huge leap and I enrolled at WGU in the Bachelors of Special Education program. </p> <p>Here I was, 32 years old, and going back to school. At that time I had three children, ages eight, six, and three. And my husband was our sole income earner. We knew this path would put stress on our family no matter where I went to school, but WGU was my first choice. I needed the flexibility of working towards a degree on my own time, with the option of accelerating my classes as necessary. </p> <p>My motivation to become a teacher was Ian, our son. I wanted to be that teacher for others that he's always been for me. His kindness, his love, his dedication, and his commitment to himself were inspiring. I wanted to take all of those pieces of him and share them with others through teaching. </p> <p>Throughout his journey, we watched our son grow into an intelligent, compassionate teenager. He has had so much support from his family and care team, I knew I wanted to be that same support for other special need students and their families. </p> <p>So did all of this mean that WGU was easy? No way! This program, as you know, requires hard work, dedication, commitment, practice. There were so many times in the first couple of years I wondered if I was going to finish. There were late nights, there was missed family time, there were many struggles. </p> <p>My husband not only financially supported us by working both a full time and part time job, but he also took on the role of home schooling all three of our boys while I spent 16 weeks in student teaching. [Applause] </p> <p>My program mentor, [Nileen Ector?], was instrumental in my success. She pushed me, she encouraged me, she reminded me of my goals. Never did I ever want to give up, but I questioned my ability to make it through. </p> <p>I was halfway into my degree, and I was having a hard time seeing the light at the end of this tunnel, and I just needed that one sign that said you're still on the right path. I still needed that courage to finish this marathon, and luckily for me that sign arrived immediately. </p> <p>It appeared when a course instructor sent me a recorded cohort for a pre clinical class. So I sat down in the quietest area I could find, you know, with three energetic kids running through the house. I put my earbuds in, and I hit "play" on the cohort. And before I even saw that screen, I heard the most wonderful voice from my past. I looked up, and saw my high school humanities teacher leading this cohort. Back then, she was just Mrs. Nancy Cartwright. But you all know her now as Dr. Nancy Cartwright, or simply "Doc Nancy." [Applause] </p> <p>Her appearance at that time, I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be. And over the next two years, Doc Nancy mentored me. Between she and Nileen, I had two rocks I could count on at WGU for continuous and unwavering support. When it came time for student teaching, I was still without a clinical supervisor. Doc Nancy, unbeknownst to me at the time, applied to be my clinical supervisor. When I hit roadblocks, Doc Nancy was there. And when I needed help navigating obstacles, she showed me the way. And when I thought I'd completely failed a student teaching observation, she provided meaningful feedback and constructive criticism. </p> <p>When I attended a WGU Scholars event, half of the people I had met for the first time had already heard about me because of Doc Nancy's pride. She embodies the spirit of WGU, and I have never felt so part of a school as I have with WGU. The program mentors, the course instructors, the enrollment counselors, even the teacher licensing team, they were all there for me, wanting me to succeed. And they made themselves available for me when I needed them. WGU is family. </p> <p>In January, I officially graduated with my bachelor's in special education, that led to dual licensure for elementary education, and special education in Washington state. [Applause] Thank you. The day after I graduated, I accepted a position with the Kodiak Island Boroughs School District in Kodiak, Alaska. I will be an elementary special education teacher in the 2019 2020 school year. </p> <p>WGU has changed my life. I'm currently a student in the Masters of Curriculum and Instruction program, where my new mentor, Erin Rain, has picked up exactly where Nileen left off. And then sometimes I think if I'd listened to six year old me, I would've become a teacher so many years ago. But honestly, I'm really thankful that I didn't because I would've missed out on the wonderful opportunity that is being a WGU student, and the second family that comes with it. I cherish that I will be a night owl for life. Thank you. [Applause] </p>
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