Nichole Washburn, who is studying elementary and special education with a language arts endorsement at Eastern New Mexico University, discusses her interest in teaching and her Eastern Experience with the EMNU News.
Why did you choose your fields of study?
I love kids, especially elementary-aged kids. There is something so beautiful about the way they learn and how deeply they feel things. They are just unchained by a lot of the restrictions we see put on ourselves as we get older.
I always say that part of me is actually fond of a toddler throwing a fit on the floor in a store or kicking the back of my seat on an airplane because, in kind of an odd way, I have always seen that as being a beautiful part of being that age, so blatantly unrestrained by what other people think of them or the rules we put on ourselves as adults, not that people should throw fits on the floor as adults.
Almost every elementary schooler I've met has been the most inquisitive scientist, the most unrestrained artist and the most excited storyteller I have ever met, and if I can do even one little thing that helps them stay that way as a teacher, I think I'll be happy.
Which academic honors have you received?
I was on the dean's list last semester, my first semester as an actual collegiate student. I also received the Green and Silver Presidential Scholarship.
Are you working on any research or academic projects?
I'm volunteering my time with Career and Technical Education (CTE) by judging interview skills for the virtual National Business Professionals of America (BPA) conference. I was a state officer for BPA, and I spent a lot of time with CTE in my youth, including advocating for it to local and national senators. I think CTE is really important for helping students have the skills to make their dreams into goals, and most organizations under the CTE branch teach similar soft skills that help students be employable for any job.
I also just got done organizing a charity event for Chi Omega where we collected donations to take to the Ronald McDonald House.
Which activities have you been involved in outside of the classroom?
I am a Dawg Days counselor this year, which I am overjoyed about. I am also the Community Service director for my Greek affiliation, Chi Omega, and I am the treasurer for Panhellenic.
Tell us about your family and background.
I was born in Savannah, Georgia, but as I was growing up, I lived in Clovis, Portales and San Antonio. I have three younger sisters and two younger brothers, and I am getting married and changing my last name to Stokes on November 7 this year.
What do you hope to pursue as a career? What do you hope to ultimately achieve in your career?
I want to teach anywhere from first to fourth grade.
As far as achievements go, I would like to be the kind of person that fosters students at that critical age to want to become lifelong learners. I know that seems odd to think about for elementary schoolers, but that really is the time to do it. I mean, if you already hated school by the time you were in first grade, why on Earth would you want to be anywhere near a high school?
In every classroom I have, I want to encourage students that they can be and absolutely are a classroom full of astronauts and presidents and doctors. I am hoping to inspire my students to love to learn and to keep learning for the rest of their lives. If I can foster real dreams in my classroom, I think I would consider that my greatest achievement.
What other dreams do you have?
I really just want to spend my life helping others in whatever way I can.
Which professors have helped mentor you during your time at ENMU?
I've looked up to Dr. Kathleen Wagner since I was in high school. I was the president of my school's Educators Rising group. She was involved with us a little bit, and she really gave me a lot of inspiration for what I wanted my goals to be as a future educator.
Where is your favorite place on campus?
COVID has kind of made it difficult to really have a favorite place, but I do like walking around Eastern kind of in general, and I have since I was a kid. It is a really pretty area. I also like meeting friends to study at the Golden Library in the Golden Student Success Center, but I do end up having to study alone again later; I'm too social to study around people that I just want to talk to.
What has been your favorite class?
I really enjoyed my Issues in Disability class with Dr. Leslie Costa-Guerra. I think she had really thought-provoking discussion questions, and she didn't expect us to always have a clear opinion on complicated issues. I liked the way it seemed like she just wanted us to really think about a topic, do our research and then talk about our thoughts. It really helped me learn something about the topics we were addressing.
Why did you choose to attend ENMU?
ENMU has a really good program for future teachers, and some of the professors here really won me over. It also helps to be in the town I grew up in as my mom is going through some serious health issues right now, and it makes me feel better to be in the same town that she is.
What advice would you give to students who are interested in your field of study?
Be passionate. At the elementary level especially, you can't go halfway in, and if you do, you're being unfair to yourself and the kids that end up in your classroom. If you just want to help others, there are plenty of jobs like that. If you just want to teach a subject you're passionate about, you could be a high school teacher or even a professor. Before you decide to study elementary education, I would really take inventory of myself, listen to teachers that came before me about their experiences, and make sure I was doing it because I was passionate about the kids I am going to end up teaching, not only for the benefit of the students but so that you don't end up in a career field that you hate.
What is your favorite part of being a Greyhound?
I love how going to Eastern feels like being a part of a community, especially when you put yourself out there and do things like going Greek and attending Dawg Days. I've just had a really positive experience making friends, and the University handled all of this COVID stuff really well, in my opinion, as far as events go. I loved the virtual bingo nights.
What are your hobbies?
I like doing crafts and babysitting. I also like to cook, and I've been lifting weights pretty regularly lately, too.