Five Knox students—Song Li '22, Alyssa Habschmidt '22, Joey Reyes '22, Phoenix Haessler '22, and Alex Davis '...
Majors in Spanish and Political Science
What have you been doing professionally since graduating from Knox?
Since graduating from Knox, I have held a number of diverse roles in education. I taught K-12 Spanish and ESL as a Chicago Teaching Fellow, received a full scholarship for my Masters’ in Instructional Leadership from the University of Illinois-Chicago, and worked as a bilingual compliance administrator for the Chicago Public Schools Office of Language and Cultural Education. In 2015, I moved to Minneapolis and was a Dean in a Cristo Rey (Jesuit) Network high school and a small Catholic mission school that primarily served Mexican, Ecuadorian, and Ethiopian families.
Through my work in Catholic education, I realized I wanted to pursue a vocation in parochial school leadership, and last year I moved back to Philadelphia to be closer to family and lead as an assistant principal at St. Thomas Aquinas, which is a member of the Independence Mission Schools network. St. Thomas educates under-resourced students from multiple cultural and linguistic backgrounds in the South Philadelphia area.
This winter, I was accepted into the Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program at the University of Notre Dame, which I will begin in June 2020. It is a national cohort of 40 Catholic school leaders who will receive a Masters of Arts in Educational Administration as well as administrative licensure. It was a competitive application process and is a new challenge that I am enthusiastic to pursue.
Describe your time at Knox and the impact that your education has had on your post-Knox life.
During my time at Knox, I played three years of varsity volleyball, one year of softball, served on the Union Board, and also studied abroad for a year in Barcelona. Initially, I believed I would pursue a career in immigration law, but I found myself being more increasingly drawn to my Spanish coursework, and my year in Barcelona cemented my desire to utilize my bilingual skills to serve others. I added Spanish as a double major, and through a series of happy accidents, found employment upon graduation through the Chicago Teaching Fellows program. During my time, I even took a year of Russian, though I may not advise taking two disparate languages simultaneously!
The relevance of Knox’s liberal arts education is so significant to my formation as a servant leader, as I was able to take divergent classes that shaped the way I see the world and how I participate in it now.
Why is Knox important to you?
Knox is also important to me as it is woven into the history of my family. Both my paternal great-great grandfather, Thomas McClelland, and great-grandfather, Kellogg McClelland, were past administrators of the college, my great-grandmother Jean Campbell McClelland was a French and Spanish professor in the Language department, and both my great-uncles were alumni. I was the only person in my generation to attend Knox, and being able to go into the offices and classrooms where my ancestors worked, taught, and learned always provided a jolt of energy. My other great-grandparents were professors at the former Lombard College, and I even met people within Galesburg who still remembered my family many years later.
I also enjoyed my years on the volleyball team, as well as my study abroad experience. Since graduation, I’ve attended several alumni weddings, visited or received visits from Knox friends, and am in daily contact with other former classmates.
Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your work? If so, how?
Teaching and learning have changed the landscape of education almost instantaneously, as well as permanently. When the pandemic began, my teachers and I created a distance-learning program immediately, and it continues to evolve as the quarantine has continued. This means figuring out how to dispense technology for those who may not have access, how to grade and assess, and navigate the traumas that students and families may be experiencing due to current events.
In these uncertain times, we will continue to learn, adapt, and shift structures for the needs of the students we served, and the flexibility of a Knox education is a guide on how to do so with a growth mindset.
What words of encouragement would you offer current and prospective students?
Because of Knox, I have a curiosity in the world around me. I have traveled to several continents and been fearless in experiencing other cultures. As my career has developed, I have implemented tools that I received from my professors to enrich myself and others professionally and personally, as I know it has done for my fellow alumni.