Reflecting on my Background and Values

During my K-12 education I attended five different schools each with unique funding sources and demographics. My experience with these diverse institutions sparked an interest in educational pedagogy and the role outside forces play in impacting academic achievement. I was consistently amazed by the similarity of instruction, but difference in academic achievement. Ultimately, these schools led me to Ohio State to study special education and nonprofit management. My interest in education stems from the role it can play in community development and strengthening my understanding of myself, others, and my world. 

While attending public school I never questioned the rules and norms that were imposed on my fellow classmates and I as elementary students. However, things changed when I found myself in a new learning community at the start of 6th grade. My private middle school, Leaves of Learning, challenged my idea of what it meant to be a school. The students in my classes were not always my age, my teachers lacked education degrees, and I only attended the program for 14.5 hours a week. My experience as a student was very different from what I had become accustomed to, but nonetheless I thrived in my coursework. For the first time I was surrounded by people who always loved to be at school. 

When I left Leaves of Learning to move to a wealthy Columbus suburb, Bexley, my parents were concerned that I would be behind my peers in academics. However, we quickly found that to be the opposite. At Leaves of Learning students were trusted with being responsible for themselves and classes were taught for the purpose of learning and enjoyment. High test scores were never the goal. At Bexley it was clear that the same priorities had not been stressed. My peers struggled with independent notetaking and retaining information from previous courses. My time at Leaves of Learning taught me that working smarter is better than working harder and that tradition needs to be questioned. It inspired a great interest in teaching and the role of the nonpublic sector in spearheading innovation and reform in education.    

While a freshman in high school I volunteered for a local nonprofit child care and family services organization, Columbus Early Learning Centers (CELC). I later joined the team through a paid position as an office assistant. This experience challenged my ideas of what a “charity” is and should be. Up until this point in my life when I pictured nonprofits I thought of homeless shelters and food banks. I quickly found that many charities including CELC were complicated businesses with elaborate plans and overhead staff.

I consider efficiency to be one of my strongest held values. This was instilled in me by example at CELC. Helping children in the early years of development is the most efficient way to positively change a person’s life. A dollar invested in the first five years yields a rate of return of 14 to 17%. This is because a child’s brain is being built in the beginning of  their life. It is much easier to build strong brains than rehab damaged ones. I have a great interest in working for youth and family causes as I know it is the most efficient and just way to help a person and a community.  

My experience with these organizations instilled values of innovation and efficiency that led me to pursue a career in community development and education reform. However, what I have taken from these experiences and organizations expands beyond my academic and professional realms. The values that I have been taught by these groups have a constant presence in my interactions with myself and my world. I am grateful to have learned from a rich and diverse community that has given me the tools to be an informed, well-rounded community member.

My Personal Theory of Change

Statement of Reality 

America is unable to support children and families, particularly in the years before a child enters kindergarten. A tattered network of limited parental leave policy, inconsistent child care regulations, and a patchwork of expensive preschool options has created the current system that squanders children’s potential and puts an undue burden on parents. Subsequently, children and adults are not happy. Parents do not feel adequately supported in their parenthood journey which in turn causes the declining birth rate. American children underperform other students in similarly developed nations in elementary school and beyond. We are committing an injustice to our youth in the short term and hurting our entire nation in the long term. The state of young children is an issue that affects every other social and environmental problem as the solvers of these problems will have been children at the beginning of their life. For better or worse, children grow up to be adults. The role they play in their communities is driven by their childhood.

Desired Future

In an ideal world parents would be supported, children’s development would be respected, and community would be at the heart of how children and families are cared for. All adults would be given the tools to make an informed decision about becoming parents. Those who choose to do so would feel supported and prepared by their community. Families would be given the opportunity to make the best choice for how they care for the child; all options would support the child’s healthy development. Children would grow up to be well rounded adults that have each met their potential.

Theory of Change 

In order to achieve this reality social change needs to occur through government policy and in civil society. On the political side of things parental leave policies would need to be put in place similar to those in other developed nations. Comprehensive sex education needs to be a part of high school curriculums, and affordable effective contraceptives need to be accessible for all body types. Additionally, comprehensive parenting and child development should also be required in high school. Teens and adults should be able to make a decision about becoming parents and prepared to do so if they choose to. Without proper education, people only know how to parent in the way they were parented. This creates a great injustice for those who are victims of generational poverty. The current network of high-quality evidence based early childhood education and care programs need to be radically expanded with increased government funding. The vast majority of current childcare programs need to be improved through increased funding and workforce development initiatives. All efforts must work in the interests of children, guardians, and program staff. Failure to do so will create change that is not sustainable in the long term.

Exploring Columbus with my Mentee

As a part of my experience as an Advocates for Communities and Education Scholar I participate in a second year capstone project to complete the program. As previously discussed on this page, I am mentoring a freshmen ACES scholar as they transition to OSU. My mentee, Payton, and I got together to explore Columbus and our interests on a cold evening in November.

When initialing being paired, Payton and I both spoke of our interests in fashion and sustainability. I thought that visiting a local thrift shop might be good for our “Explore Columbus” assignment. After speaking with Payton I knew just where to go!

In earlier conversations Payton had mentioned that her older sister who attends OSU loved to thrift shop in Columbus, but that she herself hadn’t had the chance to try it yet. Coming from a small hometown, Payton said that there were few second hand stores that she could shop at it. She said that she was excited to try thrifting in Columbus, but that she felt a little overwhelmed. I told her I would be happy to show her around as I have been living and thrifting in Columbus for going on six years.

We decided to go to the Goodwill on N High St, per my recommendation. The shop is one of the closest to campus, right off of the bus line, and cheaper than the stores in the Short North. Additionally, Payton hadn’t been to Old North Columbus yet. I know as a freshmen people told me a lot about Short North and German Village, but rarely spoke of the neighborhoods North of Campus. I though getting “out” and “up” could be helpful for Payton, and I was eager to chare my favorite Columbus neighborhood with her.

We met at the Ohio Union and crossed the street to the COTA stop in front of Midway. While at the bus stop we discussed what was new in Payton’s life and on the fifth floor of Smeeb. We waited in the cold until the number 2 bus finally arrived. It was Payton’s first time riding the city bus. Although it was a little unusual due to COVID-19 restrictions I explained to her how it worked and how simple it was to get around town using just your Buck-id. I did warn her of the frequency of delays and how quickly ETAs could change. On the ride we discussed Old North and the neighborhoods around campus. I pointed out the townhouse I am going to live in next year and we discussed off campus housing options, as there is a lot more choice and planning involved than underclassmen dorm housing.

After riding the bus up High Street we hopped off the Hudson stop, conveniently right in front of the Goodwill we were headed to. We hurried inside to get out of the late autumn cold. While there we wondered the aisles looking for someone else’s trash that was soon to be our new treasure. We thumbed through racks of clothes looking for the cutest, ugliest, and strangest things we could fine. We each found a top that we were happy to add to our wardrobe. After paying at the register we ventured back outside to wait for our bus. We rode the mile back to the Ohio Union where we had started our evening.

I think thrifting is a great way to explore a city. It’s cheap, accessible, and you can tell a lot about a community by the clothes and home goods they use and give away. The Goodwill in Old North is an excellent choice to shop at as it is right off of two bus lines and next to a lot of other Columbus hidden gems. Across the intersection is Jack and Benny’s, a fantastic breakfast spot serving classic diner cuisine. Up the the block is Ace of Cups, a really cool music venue in a converted bank. One of my favorite pizza places in the city, Hound Dogs, is just another block North.

I recommend a trip to Old North especially to Goodwill for other scholars that have an interest in clothes and/or secondhand shopping. It’s an excellent way to get out into the neighborhoods that students have the option to live in as juniors and seniors. Exploring the different neighborhoods around campus made the apartment hunting search easier for me because I really new what I was getting into. It’s never to early to start experiencing Columbus outside of the 43210.

The Goodwill on the Corner of Hudson Ave. and High St.

Rediscovering Math

For the last two semesters I have spent my lunch hour learning to count, add, subtract, multiply, and measure with 30 of my fellow buckeyes. Math for Teachers has exposed me to the mathematical concepts from my childhood that I thought I already knew well. It has challenged me to become a more critical thinker and has taught me that you do not truly understand something unless you can help someone else to understand it. I have learned to look to my peers to deepen my understanding of content. Working together we can learn more about the patterns in our world and how we can use them.

The focus of this semester has been on geometry. In thinking back to my experience with geometry in my own K12 education I have little memory of geometry lessons in elementary and middle school. I do remember learning that the most efficient way to build a fence was in the shape of a square because it had the smallest area to perimeter ratio – a fact that I have kept with me since third grade in the corner of my brain where I keep my dream plans for a chicken coup.

It wasn’t until high school that I explored geometry in depth and really enjoyed my math coursework. My favorite topic in my sophomore geometry class were proofs, specifically those that worked with arbelos. On the last day of our unit my teacher, Mr. Wilcoxon, pulled up an animation of an arbelos with a circle on the SMART Board. He dragged point D from one side of the largest semi circle to the other. The more even the smaller semi circles were the larger the circle was and vice versa. He told this that we weren’t going to have to prove this one, but that he wanted to show it to us. No matter where the semi circles were positioned the area of the arbelo (green region) was equal to the area of the circle.

Up until this point in my math education everything that I had been taught felt man-made. There was something rigid and lifeless to it. It felt like a means to an often dull end. The arbelo and circle challenged that. It didn’t feel like the circle needed to be even the awkward shape, but it was so perfect that it was. Working with shapes off of a coordinate plane introduced me to the captivating patterns that existed in the universe long before people had even begun to count. Geometry taught me that, at least to me, math was an articulation of those patterns.

My Geometry Teacher, Mr. Wilcoxon, and I at my High School Graduation

Thinking from a Teacher’s Point of View

My favorite geometry topic this semester was constructing shapes by folding and using a straightedge and/or compass. In my K12 education I always drew shapes (other than circles) with just a ruler. Working without unit measurement forced me to think more creatively and gave me a deeper understanding of the properties of shapes. The relationships between opposite angles, diagonals, etc. became clearer when having to problem solve to build my shapes. 

Here are two examples of my work this semester constructing shapes:

Learning from Others’ Points of View

This semester we were asked to craft a lesson plan for teaching area to a group of second through fifth graders who had never been exposed to the concept before. We shared out lessons with each other through a virtual discussion board. At first I was a little dumbfounded as to what to write. We have spent a lot of time working on correcting students work and explaining specific problems, but rarely do we address how to introduce a topic. Much of what we learn is that elementary math is more complicated than it seems. The task of of introducing abstract concepts feels daunting when you know so many ways that it can be misunderstood. After much tinkering I felt content with plan. However, reading my fellow classmates lessons made me aware of the areas of weakness in my own and gave me ideas of different explorations into the topic. By seeing how we each approached the same task in unique ways showed my the diversity of thought we shared as a class and the diversity of thought I could expect form my own future students. Below is my revised lesson plan with notes of the changes I made.

Exploring Area through Fabric and Pattern Blocks – In revising my lesson plan I realized I needed to make my activity simpler so it would be easier for my students to understand the directions. I changed the amount of variety of materials and removed two steps of the process. I think my lesson plan is clearer and better targets my goals now.

Meet my ACES Mentee!

This year I have the privilege of working with an Advocates for Communities and Education Scholars freshmen on their transition to Ohio State. I was paired with psychology major, Payton Harvey. She and I share a love of plants, hiking, music, and art. We’re both interested in working with children. Payton and I sat down to get to know each other a little better and how I can best support her in her first year. I was happy to find that she is loving Ohio State so far!

Payton is from a small town in Ohio, Leesburg. She has adjusted well to city life in Cbus. As her older sister, a current OSU junior, has been attending the university for almost 3 years Payton spent a lot of time in Columbus before moving into the dorms this year. Her family also spent time in the city for fun when she was growing up. Although she hasn’t ad much of a chance to explore the city between classes and COVID restrictions she has been enjoying getting to know campus. She remarked that campus doesn’t feel very big at all after being here for a few weeks. In fact, she was really surprised at just how small it is. She often runs into friends and classmates when out and about. (What has surprised you about Ohio State since arriving on campus?)

Payton is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and considering a minor in Art. She hopes to become an art therapist because she is a fan of all types of art, especially painting. (What is your dream job and why?) She is interested in internships and gaining hands on experience in the field. I mentioned an art therapist that I had worked with at a previous job and the annual student internships at the Wexner Center for the Arts that may be of interest to her. Payton plans to attend graduate school for art therapy after completing her bachelors as it is essentially a requirement to practice in the field of art therapy. (What do you plan to do with your major after graduation?)

Payton is currently balancing a heavy 17 credit hour course load this semester. She has one in person class, Spanish, which is her favorite. The class that is giving her the most trouble is Calculus. (What has been your most challenging class so far and why?) Already a challenging course, the format has been changed this semester due to the distance learning format. I shared with her that this is a common experience this semester.

Payton is enjoying ACES so far. She chose the scholars program because of the community and her interest in service. (Why did you choose ACES?) She lives in the “connector” of Smith-Steeb and is very close with her fellow scholars in that hallway. She actually lives in the room next to mine last year. It is nice to see that so much laughter and joy is in that space again. She is very close with her roommate and they get along well. This is a relief as she went random. I shared with her that I had the same experience. Payton enjoyed volunteering in high school and looks forward to volunteering this semester and in the future through the program. She knows that that looks very different though due to COVID. I told her that we were working on planning more in person outdoor service events. Hopefully we will be able to volunteer together soon.

Looking to the future, Payton and I are going to explore her interests in the city. Her sister has spent a lot of time thrifting in town over the years. Payton hasn’t had the chance to visit any shops. We discussed spending an afternoon visiting the secondhand shops that can be reached by COTA. We’re looking forward to a year of learning together!

Payton and I with Brutus in the Ohio Union

Substitute Teaching at St. Joseph Montessori School

For the past year I have worked as an “on call” substitute teacher at St. Joseph Montessori School (SJMS). SJMS is a private Catholic school that serves children in preschool through 8th grade using the approach to education that was developed by the Italian physician, Maria Montessori. As a substitute, I accept teaching assignments across all subject areas, working with children of varied academic/age levels and diverse cultural backgrounds.

Working at SJMS has allowed me to learn from veteran teachers. They use a co-teaching model, so other than specials, when I am working I am with another permanent teacher. Under their guidance, I have enhanced my classroom management skills and built my confidence in leading a classroom.

Gaining an understanding of the Montessori philosophy has challenged my ideas of how I view myself as an instructor. It has taught me to value the child’s natural capabilities as a learner and to look inward when trying to improve my teaching practice. My experience here has motivated me to pursue training and employment outside of the traditional American educational approach. 

Photo courtesy of

Academic Enrichment

I am interested in challenging myself intellectually inside and outside of the classroom for the benefit of my personal and professional growth. Below are my goals regarding academic enrichment for my first two years at Ohio State.

  • Participate in a Reggio Emilia Study Group
  • Attend the University of Helsinki Summer School
  • Intern at the Schoenbaum Family Center

A Policy Problem

Through the John Glenn College of Public Affairs High School Internship Program I was able to be placed in an internship with a local nonprofit and enroll in Intro to Public Affairs 2110 through the Ohio State Academy. Below you will find an essay written for the public affairs course. We were tasked with researching any policy problem that was of interest to us and developing and comparing three potential solutions to the problem. I chose to research access to affordable and quality child care in our state.

The importance of the early years, specifically birth through five, is a topic I am particularly passionate about. Advances in technology and a growing need for change sparked much inquiry and innovation in the field of early childhood over the last few decades. Research has consistently shown how crucial early experiences are in effecting success and health later in life. However, despite the demonstrated importance, there is still a significant gap between research and practice. It is this gap that fuels my desire to advocate for developmentally appropriate practice in the early years.

Focusing specifically on Ohio’s affordable quality child care shortage was motivated by my participation in the Columbus Women’s Commission benefits cliff discussions regarding publicly funded child care. As my internship supervisor, Dr. Gina Ginn, is a commissioner, I was privileged to attend the meetings with her and an interdisciplinary team of other community advocates including representatives from Columbus Legal Aide, the Crane Center for Early Childhood Research and Policy, Future Ready Columbus, and the Women’s Fund of Central Ohio.

Addressing the Lack of Quality Child Care for Infants and Toddlers in Ohio

My Fall 2018 John Glenn College of Public Affairs HSIP Cohort + Our Wonderful PUBAFRS 2110 Instructor, Aiden Irish

Leadership Development

I am committed to improving my leadership skills for the betterment of my personal wellness, professional development, and community. I believe that strong leadership skills are built on a foundation of self-awareness and self-reflection. My leadership improvement practice is grounded in strengthening my understanding of my self and my world. Below are my goals regarding leadership development for my first two years:

  • Become a mentor in my scholars program
  • Hold an executive position in a student organization

Service Engagement

As an Advocates for Communities and Education Scholar (ACES), I have made a commitment to serving my community. ACES provides me with many opportunities to complete service within my Ohio State and Columbus community as well as educate me about what effective service looks like. In addition to completing service work though my scholars program, it is my goal to pursue my passion for defending developmentally appropriate practice in the early years through direct service and advocacy. Below are my goals regarding service engagement for my first year:

  • Establish a relationship with a community organization where I can volunteer twice a month
  • Contact my legislator monthly
  • Become active in 3 student organizations, at least one professional and one service based

A recent Saturday morning spent volunteering at NNEMAP Food Pantry, located just a mile off campus – I’ve been driving by NNEMAP on my way to Gateway Film Center for years and never knew about the wonderful work they do!