Autumn Evans is an elementary education major from Aurora, IL
Hometown: Aurora, IL
Year: Graduated December 2020
Major: Elementary Education
What did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you pursuing that as a major, or have you taken another path?
When I was little, I always wanted to be a teacher. My elementary school teachers used to give me old curriculum books and worksheets to play school with my friends and neighbors. My mom would always catch me with my stuffed animals lined up on my bed and worksheets taped on the wall, while I "taught" them. It was natural for me to pursue this dream here at NIU.
What is your major (and/or minor) and why did you decide on this course of study?
My major is elementary education with an endorsement in ESL. I am an advocate for people and motivating them to live up to their potential and achieve what once seemed impossible. As an elementary teacher, I can start this process while they are young. I want to help students in a way that will be beneficial for their lives and the future world.
What has been something you have found pleasantly surprising about your experience at NIU?
I was pleasantly surprised by the opportunities outside of class at NIU. I was in the first group to participate in Educate Global in 2017. I taught in Beijing, China, for six weeks. I also became a research student with two professors. I presented my research at two nationwide and two statewide conferences, as an undergraduate. I turned my research into two articles; one is published and the other is in the works. I was pleasantly surprised by all of the supportive professors and staff in the College of Education.
How have you connected with other students virtually to study for classes, meet new people or form new friendships?
Connecting with others has been done through Facetime, Blackboard Collaborate and Teams. Meeting new people has happened through Blackboard discussion. Although this hasn't been the ideal way, we are making it work through trying times.
Are you involved in any student organizations, mentoring programs or extra-curricular activities? If so, which ones? How have they added to your experience as a Huskie?
As I mentioned, I am research student, and my primary study is advocacy for people who are bilingual. I volunteer at the Social Justice Conference for Educators. I was a student representative on the search committee for an assistant professor of ESL/bilingual position. I have been selected to speak to incoming College of Education students, giving them advice on their future endeavors. Although those aren't all my extracurricular activities, they have all helped shape me into a well-rounded Huskie. I developed my professional skills and had the opportunity to experience a different side of NIU.
Who has been one of your favorite instructors/professors and why? What course did they teach?
My favorite two professors have to be Dr. James Cohen and Dr. John Evar Strid. These two supported me from my sophomore year until graduation. I took Cohen's intro to ELLs and Strid's applied linguistic courses. We conducted research, spoke at four conferences, and were representatives on the search committee for an assistant professor of ESL/bilingual position. Not only were they great professors, they also showed their dedication outside of the classroom, and I am forever grateful.
Where is your favorite spot on campus or in the community? Why are you drawn to it?
My favorite spot on campus was the learning center in Gabel Hall. This was an educator's sanctuary. There were computers, booths, tables, whiteboards, microwaves and free coffee. In-between our three-hour classes, one could find my entire cohort down there. It was our study place and hang-out, our home away from home.
What advice would you give to a student who is applying to colleges?
I would advise any student applying to college to research your major. If you know what you want to do, find a college that will maximize your time on campus. The College of Education at NIU gave me ample opportunities to grow professionally outside of class. I would also recommend speaking with alumni about their experiences.
Coming to college, what is something that you have had to learn to do differently?
Coming to college, I had to learn to prioritize my time. College allows for flexibility, and a lot of responsibility comes with that flexibility. It is important to prioritize time in college because courses only become more challenging as you progress.
What do you do to relax or recharge?
Prayer and reading my Bible relaxes me. College can be challenging and tough, so I use my relationship with Christ to keep me relaxed. Jesus is my source of strength, and he guides my path. I owe all my successes to God.