There are many reasons adult students return to school. Some are planning a career change or need new skills for career advancement. Others enroll for personal development or after a change in their life situation.
Like many adult students Angel Dixon of New Bern placed her desire of obtaining a college degree on the back burner. As a young mother of three, one with autism and another with ADHD, tending to her family’s needs was her chief priority. Although she tried several times to take college courses when her children were small, it never seemed to work out. The demands from her family were too great, and her time for studying was limited. However, she never fully gave up on her dream of becoming a teacher.
In 2017, at the age of 42, Dixon decided it was her time to shine. With her children in their teens and twenties, she was finally able to focus on herself and her own dreams. Dixon enrolled in the early childhood education program at the University of Mount Olive (UMO). The program offered the convenience and flexibility she needed to manage both her work as a kindergarten teacher’s assistant and her own studies.
“My hope is to teach kindergarten,” Dixon said. “I have a lot to offer and many personal experiences to help me relate to my students and their families. I am passionate about kindergarten students and the progress they make in one school year. Some of them come to school without having attended any type of preschool program, so the formal school environment alone can be an adjustment.”
Dixon found her own adjustment back to the classroom to be smoother than she had anticipated. According to Dixon, the courses at UMO were both challenging and rewarding, and the professors were insightful and caring. “Most of my professors have taught elementary education themselves,” she observed. “They can relate to what the classroom experience is like and share that knowledge.”
One instructor in particular truly inspired Dixon. “Ms. Sara Green has the ability to deliver class content in a way that all of her students can understand. She takes time to explain things when students need additional help, and she makes all of her students feel welcome. She does all of this while working full time as a kindergarten teacher and mother of two young children. She has been a wonderful mentor and inspiration to me.”
Dixon will soon inspire her own students. “In and out of the classroom, I strive to help students find their genius and realize their dreams,” said Dixon. “I have watched children who are not able to recognize their own name at the beginning of the school year progress to reading above their grade level by the end of the year, so I know that with the right teacher students can do amazing things.”
Dixon is set to graduate from UMO on August 17. If her grades remain the same, she will have a GPA of 3.95, and earn the distinction of Summa Cum Laude. At the start of the fall academic year she plans to transition from being an assistant teacher to becoming a lead kindergarten teacher. She has finally found her time to shine.
“My education from UMO has transformed me,” she said. “I am excited at the opportunity to become the leader within the classroom, and I cannot wait to meet my own first class of students.”
Dixon and her husband, Chris, have three children, Drew (24), who is a US Marine; Paige (21), who is seeking her middle grades education degree; and Kylie (16), a rising junior at West Craven High School.