Fall 2016 English BSEd alumni Desirae Eagle talks about receiving a 2017 Greef Award, student teaching, and how Missouri State University’s English Education Program set her up for success.
Every year colleges and universities around the state nominate outstanding English teacher candidates to be recognized by the Missouri Council of Teachers of English. This year, Missouri State University Alumna Desirae Eagle (Fall ‘16) was awarded a 2017 Greef Award. She attended the special award ceremony with her student teaching cooperating teacher, Ms. Amanda Wood, from Pleasant Hope High School.
As she reflected on the recognition, Desirae remembers how and why she came to Missouri State University. Becoming an English teacher wasn’t originally on her radar, “I originally came to Missouri State to do the electronic arts program,” Desirae said, “My senior year we visited, and I really liked the campus; I thought it was really pretty, I really enjoyed just the whole community feel of Springfield.” But something didn’t feel right about choosing that degree; while she was (and still is) deeply passionate about music, it didn’t feel like the right career for her. That was when she recalled wanting to be a teacher when she was younger. She was always passionate about reading and writing, and couldn’t forget the meaningful impact her English teachers had on her. That direct impact and interaction felt like the future and meaning she was longing for. Desirae decided to check out the English Department her second semester Freshman year, so she made an appointment to talk to someone in the English Education department. That was it—she changed her major that day and didn’t look back.
Desirae has valued a great deal about her time in the English Bachelors of Science in Education (BSEd) degree program, and especially the strength of her content preparation through English department courses. “What I appreciate is that I feel like I know my content. There’s no worry. I covered bases: American, British, everything.” Missouri State’s extensive survey courses and in depth literature classes prepare students to feel confident as experts in the Western canon.
With such a strong knowledge base, Desirae has been able to focus on what is most important about her pedagogy: passion. A trinity of knowledge, passion, and creativity has allowed Desirae to hone in on how to creatively apply ideas that come from literature to everyday life. “With English and teaching in high school, there is so much creativity with it. Of course, at the end of the day, I would love my students to know about Sophocles or know Antigone forwards and backwards, but I want them to pull away those themes, those ideas of ‘Ok, Antigone talks about civil disobedience, where can we apply that later on?’ and so it’s that idea of applying text-to-self or the knowledge to our society, and I think that’s what makes English Education and English classes relevant.”
Desirae seeks to foster in her own classroom the kind of classroom community that she has come to value at Missouri State and in the English education program—something that helped her succeed as a first-generation college student. “No one in my family knew ‘Oh, when you get to college, this is going to happen.’ I didn’t know anything about living in the dorms or that you had a resident assistant or that they were there to help you and all the resources—I was clueless.” Missouri State made navigating university life manageable and she found a community in which to thrive and grow. Her own perseverance took her far in the first place, but she also understood it’s not possible to get through college in a vacuum.
Missouri State has since taken strides to help their first-generation students navigate these obstacles, and Desirae was one of the first peer leaders that helped other first-gen students like herself adjust to college life and understand what to expect and how to ask for help at the university.
When asked what advice she has for other students, Desirae had to think for a moment. “There’s a lot of things you could tell other students who are coming in, but I guess for freshmen, it’s important to know there are resources and to ask questions.
I think Missouri State does a really good job offering resources and giving those, like, ‘Here’s this center if you need this, and here’s this center if you need this’ so, it’s that community feel that I really like.”