In the Reynolds household in Geneva, eight-year-old Eleanor and ten-year-old Cameron aren’t the only ones preparing for a new school year. This fall, their mom, Emily will be a student too.
The 39-year old former hairstylist will be a full-time undergraduate student at Waubonsee Community College, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in education, with a goal of becoming an elementary school teacher.
“I’ve been taking online classes to get my feet wet, but now I’ll be going fulltime,” says Emily.
Emily’s mom, Diane Jordan, couldn’t be prouder.
“When she shared her desire to go back to school, I was delighted,” shares Diane. “Though I knew it would be more difficult since she now has responsibilities as a wife and mother, I also know she can overcome any obstacle.”
A native of Carol Stream, Emily graduated in the top five percent of her class at Glenbard North High School, and had acceptances from Northwestern University and the University of Illinois, but no clear career path. After a year at College of DuPage, she decided to go to beauty school.
“When she was younger, she often talked about two things she wanted to do—be the first female president of the United States and be a beautician,” says Diane. “She has a creative bent, and I thought beauty school would be a good outlet for that.”
Emily was successful in her beauty career, thought it wasn’t her passion, and after several years as a stay-at-home mom, she didn’t look forward to returning to evening and weekend hours. Her next career—whatever it was-- would be more family-friendly, so she began to explore other options.
“I read all kinds of books, but it was hard to know what I loved,” she recalls. Babysitting for a local teacher sparked an idea. “I knew I loved working with kids, and since my family is my top priority, I wanted a career that would fit their schedule, so in the back of my mind, I started to realize that teaching was the closest fit.”
Becoming a teacher meant earning a college degree, and initially Emily had doubts.
“When she questioned this decision and the amount of time it would take to complete her schooling, I reminded her that she was still young enough to reap the benefits of school,” Diane says. “When she wondered about her ability to be back in an educational setting, I reminded her that she is still the same person—smart, competent, disciplined and persevering.”
So far, she’s earned just 12 credit hours online, but this fall she’ll take on a full-time schedule of 13 credit hours, including one online course, during the day while her kids are at school. And though she’s still a few years away from teaching in a classroom, her back-to-school experience is providing Eleanor and Cameron with an important lesson about the value of education.
“My son did a research paper in fourth grade and saw me doing a research paper at the same time,” says Emily. “I think it’s inspiring for them to see me doing what I ask them to do.”