Developing a Passion for Education – Zipporah Whiteman

After working as a teaching assistant in a kindergarten class, Zipporah Whiteman, ’18, M.A. in Teaching, came to Meredith College to develop her passion for education. Empowered by her Meredith experience, she is now enjoying a career working with English as a second language (ESL) students.

After volunteering with the kindergarten class for some time, Zipporah was eventually recommended for a position as a teaching assistant at the school.

“I’ve always enjoyed reading and literacy and teaching my girls,” said Zipporah. “I was a stay-at-home mom for seven years and I always enjoyed working with my girls and taking them to the library. After working as a teaching assistant for a year, I found that I wanted to do more of that.”

Here was also where she discovered her interest in working with ESL students in particular. “One of my students in the class spoke Spanish and was struggling the first few weeks. It was such a joy to see how he transformed from struggling with his English and adjusting to the class to being so much more confident.”

Knowing she wanted to continue her education, Zipporah decided to attend a graduate education workshop at Meredith. The fact that she could attend the two-and-a-half-year Master of Arts in Teaching program part time appealed to her. She became interested in the ESL program, and was encouraged by the high employment rate of Meredith education students.

At Meredith, Zipporah was pleased by her professors’ efforts to be inclusive and socially aware. She also liked the smaller class sizes. Having completed her undergraduate degree at a larger university, she enjoyed the opportunity to form stronger relationships with her faculty. Not only did she feel that they truly cared for her on an individual level, but she appreciated that they shared their own lives with her.

During her studies, Zipporah faced challenges, such as balancing school, work, and life, as well as having to maintain focus on her coursework through family illness and personal stresses. “I have to carefully maintain my schedule. Being a substitute teacher, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, is a challenge.”

Because of all these other demands, sometimes looking at the syllabus at the beginning of a semester can be overwhelming for Zipporah. “My professor told me not to look at everything at once: just take it bit by bit. It will fall into place. That was a good piece of advice.”

Despite these obstacles, Zipporah has found ways to navigate them and has come out stronger on the other side. “I’ve had to focus on the advice my grandmother gave me: always keep your faith, keep your sense of humor, and this too shall pass.”

At Meredith, Zipporah built on her personal strengths and the strong example set by her mother to establish herself as a role model for her daughters.

“I like the Meredith motto: ‘This is what strong looks like.’ It reminds me of my father. He’s been through a lot in his life, and he has persevered and taught me and my siblings how to face challenges directly. That’s how you get stronger and how you learn. My daughters are watching, and if I want them to do well in school and life I have to model that. I can’t just tell them.”

She found opportunities to strengthen her voice and her willingness to use it and was encouraged by professors to speak her mind and advocate for her beliefs.  “I’ve learned that I have more in me than I thought I did. I’ve learned that I can speak up when I need to.”

Meredith influenced Zipporah to focus on growth rather than perfection, an idea she emphasizes to her daughters and students. “I’m still learning. I may not be where I want to be yet, but I’m getting there. Meredith has given me a stronger mindset.”

By Alex Rouch, ’20

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