“My dream is for students to say, ‘Because of you, I never gave up.’”

By

Erik Ketcherside

Some teachers choose their profession by following the career path of a parent. When Elise Adams  (BAE ’16) walked across the stage at the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College Fall Convocation this month, it was the most recent leg of a journey she began by following her daughter to elementary school.

“My ‘Aha!’ moment came when I was teaching yoga as a volunteer at my daughter’s elementary school,” Elise explains. “I realized then I wanted to teach students how to be healthy and active.”

“Active” is a concept Elise understood well, even before going back to school for her bachelor’s degree in physical education. But she admits her pursuit of the degree challenged her entire family. “The class schedule and demands of student teaching have been rigorous,” she says, “but I’ve been able to balance life between those and being a mother and wife.” She calls her husband “endlessly patient and understanding,” and says her “two amazing daughters” would often ask if they could visit her school and meet her students. “My family got to know my students through me, and on occasions when they met, you would have thought my students were celebrities.”

That status reflects the dignity Elise imparted to the students in the high-needs school where she taught, and her concern for their welfare and sense of self-worth in and out of her PE programs. She says her most powerful memories are of “celebrating with them when they impressed even themselves, and helping them back on their feet when they thought no one cared.”

That caring is mutual. “After I led my first recreational field day at Taft Elementary, I received a letter from every student, every class, and every grade. I actually cried a bit, because in that moment, I realized I was actually making an impact on these young people’s live. I was teaching them how to be healthy and active and how to have a great time while learning.

“For some,” Elise says, “I was teaching them how to change their lives for the better.”

Elise was honored as one of four Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College Outstanding Teacher Candidates at Fall 2016 Convocation. She shares some of her inspirations, memories and advice with potential educators.

What's your hometown?

I was raised in the military. But I've been living in Mesa, Arizona for the longest, which is 12 years.

What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

I was surprised to learn that I would become so attached to my professors. One of them — Connie Pangrazi — is retiring. I feel so lucky that I was able to have her teach me. I am so sad to see her move away, and so very excited for her to have new, amazing adventures.

I also became attached to “the guys” in my group in our degree program. They are the absolute best.  We all worked together the whole two years. It feels like family moving away. Luckily I can still just text them.

Why did you choose ASU?

I always wanted to be a Sundevil! I went to my first ASU football game when I was 7! I remember telling my family that I was going to go to school at ASU.

What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

Be open and receptive. Take it all in. It is an amazing ride.

What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

All of my classes were at the Polytechnic campus. There is this small space just outside of the Student Union and library. It has beautiful trees and the best space for studying and relaxing.

What are your plans after graduation?

I am going to teach and help everyone that I come into contact with realize that they are worth all the hard work they will put into my classes.

If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

I would make a scholarship for students who don’t see how they would ever go to college. There are so many students that are not the 4.0 student, but they have heart. The student that will put in the hard work is the student that will move mountains for you. So in essence, I would support all the hard-working dreamers.