Lifelong Dream

By Michael Pemberton
Assistant Professor, Mathematics

There have been several students over the years that have shaped and cultivated my passion for teaching at the community college. However, one former student, SDM, continues to serve as an inspiration to me due to her unwavering perseverance to accomplish her goals despite all the obstacles she needed to overcome.

I first met SDM when I was assigned to serve as her academic adviser. She was a young woman that had recently decided to enroll in a couple of classes after taking a year-long break from school. Although she did not know what career she wanted to pursue, she had a lifelong dream to become the first in her family to receive a college degree. At some point during our meeting, I convinced SDM that she should enroll in my math class as one of her two courses, even though she informed me that math was a difficult and intimidating subject for her.

Shortly after the semester began, SDM missed several classes, including our first two exams and all calls and e-mails went unanswered for several weeks. It was as if SDM had disappeared. It was not until the following summer, when SDM e-mailed about signing up for classes that I learned what had happened. SDM was living with a friend after having been “kicked out” from her parents’ home following the birth of her daughter. However, SDM was still determined to complete a college degree and provide a better life for herself and her daughter.

So, I convinced her to enroll in my math class – again. This time, however, SDM’s commitment towards success was remarkable. I remember her asking questions during class, attending office hours every week, and getting very involved during exam review sessions. SDM had completely turned her academics around and was noticeably committed to accomplishing her goal. It wasn’t until I realized her passion and excitement in helping others understand the material during group work, that I suggested to SDM whether “she had ever considered being a teacher?” She literally jumped out of her seat at the idea and began telling everyone that she wanted to become a math teacher.

After several semesters, SDM had practically completed every math course offered at the college with a perfect 4.0. She was inducted and served as President of Mu Alpha Theta – the mathematics honor society – and gained valuable experience while serving as a tutor to help others who were struggling through their math classes. When graduation arrived, I watched as SDM walked across the stage alongside her three-year old daughter as she received her college degree. Afterwards, SDM found me among the crowd for a hug and to introduce her daughter to her teacher that never gave up “hope” on her making it through college and to help  accomplish her lifelong dream.

A couple of years ago, I learned that SDM had completed her bachelor’s degree in education and was teaching math at a local area high school. While we have lost touch in recent years, my hope is that SDM has the same opportunity to meet students that serve as her inspiration to teach as she continues to serve for me.