Inspired by her students, a professor and challenges

By

Jennifer P. Mitchell

“The first teacher who really made me work hard was Neal Lester, Foundation Professor of English, at Arizona State University. I was in his African American Literature Class, and as the poet and educator Taylor Mali said, this teacher ‘… could make a C+ feel like a Congressional Medal of Honor and make an A- feel like a slap in the face.’ Professor Lester wanted everyone to really do their best.”  Veronica Daigle said Lester challenged and inspired her, and he made her glad she came to ASU.

Daigle’s path to becoming a student in Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College included working at Disney World twice and taking classes in community colleges. Now, she said, “I am so glad I’m here and on my way to my career in education.”

Unsure of her major at first, she was involved in classroom observations during her years at community college, and those experiences helped her decide to become an educator. “In one setting, I ended up being there the whole school year as the teacher’s assistant. I was in a class of second graders, and most of the kids were homeless. It was amazing to me when the teacher would treat these kids just like you might treat any other child. The students, even though they had very dramatic stories and many issues to deal with, would try to do their work. In some ways, it was like any other classroom.”

Daigle said she was very happy to be accepted into Teach For America, a program in which teacher candidates commit to work in high need districts for at least two years after graduation. She said she is excited to begin her first teaching job in Orlando, Florida next year and believes she will make a difference working in Title I schools or with low-income students.

In five years, she hopes to be in a master’s degree program, and she wants to become a principal. “I like being in leadership positions, and I think that, as a principal, I will be a great advocate for teachers.”

Tales Out of School

A lightning-round interview that introduces you to members of the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College community 

What three things are always in your fridge?

Fresh veggies, pizza and ketchup.

Coffee or tea:

A bit of both. I like chai tea lattes with espresso. 

Last movie you watched that made you cry:

“What Dreams May Come.”

Last book you read:

“The Color Purple.”

Teaching is the most important profession because …

You find purpose while helping students find their purpose.

The real-life teacher who most inspired you was …

Neal Lester, professor of English at ASU, because he was the first to actually challenge me.

Favorite fictional teacher:

Ms. Frizzle from “The Magic School Bus.”

What are you most grateful for?

The ability to go to school and get a degree.

Why did you choose education as a major?

I actually switched my major to education because I thought it would be easy. I found out I was completely wrong, but I found something I was passionate about.

Who inspired you when you were young, and why?

J.K. Rowling and Margaret Peterson Haddix, two authors who taught me to love reading. 

Who inspires you now?

Malala Yousafzai, because she risks her life daily to help girls attain a fair education.

What was the biggest risk you ever took, and what did you learn from it? 

When I moved from Phoenix to Orlando on my own and ended up losing my job and having to move back in with my mom. I learned that it's OK to fail and then try again.

Three historical or fictional people you would have over for dinner:

Abraham Lincoln, Tyrion Lannister and Lemony Snicket.

What’s your favorite mode of transportation, and why?

Light rail, because it's a zero emissions way to travel.

What’s your go-to food?

Pizza.

ASU moment to remember:

Attending a luncheon with Michael Crow and Dean Koerner after being accepted to Teach For America.

Biggest change in classrooms from when you were a child to today: 

Whiteboards. My classrooms had mostly chalkboards all the way through middle school. I don't miss them.

If you could listen to only three songs for the rest of your life:

"Little Bird" by Becky Buller Band; "Piece of My Heart" by Janis Joplin; and "Downtown" by Macklemore.

Biggest mistake:

When I was 10 years old I was at a birthday party showing off tricks on a razor scooter, and I ended up breaking my knee. I missed the big fifth-grade camping trip, I had to stop competitive cheerleading, and my right leg is crooked and causes me to limp.

Biggest accomplishment:

Getting into Teach For America.

Most adventurous thing you’ve ever done:

Drove from Orlando, Florida to Phoenix by myself (with my trusty pug companion, Stella).

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

Everything that seems so big right now will seem so very small in just a few short years. Relax and breathe, and you'll turn out alright.

Favorite movie quote:

"You guys might not know this, but I consider myself a bit of a loner. I tend to think of myself as a one-man wolf pack."  — Alan Garner in “The Hangover.”

Pet peeve:

People who crack their knuckles.

App you can’t live without:

Etsy.