Passion for working with children drives ASU education grad


Jennifer Priest Mitchell

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of student profiles that are part of our December 2015 commencement coverage.

Desiree Graham always had a passion for working with younger people. She volunteered with children during her time in middle and high school and loved being with kids. This, coupled with the frequent moves her family made for her father’s work, which built a foundation for teaching, accepting new people and immersing herself in new cultures and situations, helped Graham decide on a teaching career.

“I’ve never lived in any one place more than a year … and I’ve had many different teachers myself," said Graham, who graduates with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College this December. "So, when it comes to teaching, I have a lot of ideas and excitement. I went into teaching because of a collection of experiences, and I love it!”

“I had to become very social and learn to talk to a variety of people in order to make the most of each move,” she said, reflecting on moves from Oregon to Arizona, back to Oregon and to Arizona once again. In Arizona, her family lived mainly in Phoenix and its various outer suburbs. She quickly realized that every place, even if it is a short drive from the last neighborhood or school, has its own subculture.

“My senior year we moved again, and I enrolled in online school and was basically home-schooled, which, at that age, kind of means you’re teaching yourself. I think that also played into my decision to go into teaching.”

What’s most important?

“The chance to make a difference in a student’s life," Graham said. "The education system is going through a tough time right now and I get to see a lot of the good that’s in the system. I see the pros — the positives and what I can learn. I also see opportunities for how to make, and keep, students and parents excited about education.”

Her excitement is contagious. While she was pursuing her education, her mother went back to school as well, and Graham says they supported and encouraged one another. She believes that showing people you care about them and their personal outcomes is what can stimulate and maintain excitement about education and learning.

Graham started her higher education career at Chandler-Gilbert Community College. She transferred to ASU and participated in iTeachAZ , which places teaching students in actual school classrooms. She says her experiences in iTeachAZ made her feel “completely prepared” to start interviewing for teaching jobs. In fact, she is stepping right into a teaching job at Stevenson Elementary School in Mesa, where she completed her iTeachAZ program.

“I did practice interviews with 10 principals, and I was able to intern in three different schools as I was learning how to teach and preparing to be a full-time teacher,” she said.

Before all that, while at Chandler-Gilbert, Graham heard good things about teaching and the ASU programs. She decided to go into elementary education, and her counselor suggested she sign onto a Maricopa to ASU Pathways Program to make her transfer process go more smoothly. This helped her to immediately know what classes she should take, and also connected her with an ASU career counselor in Student Services.

“It all went so smoothly. I was really pleased with the entire process and everyone was so helpful.”

“I am so excited about teaching and about going into my career with the great experiences I’ve had so far," Graham said. "I’ve seen many types of teachers and classrooms — ones that are strict, and others that are loose. I have seen student-centered schools and teacher-centered schools. I am so lucky to have a variety of experiences to call upon from my earlier education and from my formal education to put into my classroom and to use with the students I will be working with.”