“Change ‘I have to’ to ‘I get to,’” Ann Marie McGrogan ‘24 said as she sat on the second floor of the Learning Commons in mid-October. “Because that one thing that you have to do might be something that somebody else wants to do, but doesn't have the opportunity.”
The quote McGrogan lives by was taught to her by her grandmother, who has inspired her to give back and pursue her education to the fullest.
The product of an era when women largely remained home and took care of their families, McGrogan’s grandmother knew the value of further education, because it was an opportunity that was denied to her.
“She loved being a mom, but would have given anything to go to college and continue her education,” McGrogan said.
The viewpoint held, and her daughter, McGrogan’s mother, Judiann Paisley McGrogan ‘83, went on to attend Marywood herself.
Ann Marie McGrogan, a current junior in the Early Childhood and Elementary Education program, continued the tradition, but found her way to Marywood’s campus with very different ambitions for her future than she had previously planned.
A 2020 high school graduate, the Hazelton native had very limited touring options for her prospective colleges, beyond the virtual tours that most schools offered during the pandemic. Her mother’s alumni status and Marywood’s reputation in the area swayed McGrogan to take a closer look at the university, selecting it as the only institution she wanted to tour in person.
At the time, McGrogan had been caring for her ill grandmother and was intent on a career in the healthcare industry. She originally selected Marywood’s Pre-Physician Assistant Program, later switching to Nursing. The industry’s increased media exposure was the first revelation of the amount of strain healthcare workers endure inside and outside of public health emergencies.
Worried that she would not be able to meet the pressures the industry posed, but still stricken with a desire to make a difference with her career, McGrogan returned to the drawing board. This time, she relied on her own passions and her grandmother’s ardent support for education to guide her decision.
“I always knew deep down I wanted to be an educator, so I followed my passion, and I knew I could pursue that passion here at Marywood,” McGrogan said.
With her institution selected and her career goals decided, McGrogan faced the issue of most other first-year students; the transition from high school to college. What was unique to all freshmen in 2020 was making that transition during the height of the pandemic.
“I personally feel that in my freshman year I was disconnected from some students,” McGrogan said. “I feel that I was mainly with kids in my major, which made me want to get involved and join clubs and organizations on campus.”
Tasked with making the best of an unorthodox first year, McGrogan looks back on her commitment to her on-campus involvement with no regrets.
“The best decision I could have made was getting involved on campus,” she said.
McGrogan currently serves as the Vice President of Marywood’s Student Government Association and the Female Empowerment Club, a club that she founded, and is the secretary of the Fishing Club. Additionally, she is a sister of the Zeta Phi Delta sorority, serving as Greek Council Chair for the organization,and she recently joined the Marywood Cheer Club.
With a full extracurricular calendar, McGrogan knew there would be considerable challenges to balancing the full 19-hour credit loads expected of education majors.
Presently enrolled in the five-year program for her combined Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, McGrogan chose to take her differential certification in reading strategy out of personal interest and the certification’s fit into her schedule. She maintained her interest in the certificate after her experience in a Life Skills Classroom during her sophomore year.
“I fell in love with a Life skills classroom–and I will say this forever–that is the room I really want to teach in, because you are not just teaching students the core curriculum, you are teaching them how to adjust to the world outside the classroom,” McGrogan said. A smile brightened her face as she launched into a recollection of her daily experience with the students in this particular classroom. “The kids are just so funny; they have the best sense of humor and the best personalities.”
In a life skills class, teachers are expected to not only impart grade-specific selections of the core curriculum on students, but also to instruct them in information and skills necessary for life outside of the classroom. McGrogan met this challenge under the supervision of her co-op and earned a reward that she will never forget.
A student in McGrogan’s class, who was diagnosed with Down Syndrome, was challenged with other behavioral and emotional problems. She sat by herself in class, because the students never knew what sort of day this student was going to have. On McGrogan's first day in the classroom, the girl had an episode in which she lashed out, not only at McGrogan and her co-op, but at other students.
Over the course of her rotation, McGrogan got to see first-hand the work that goes into helping students figure out ways of handling conflicting emotions in a classroom. She was also given the opportunity to garner the management skills necessary to maintain a constructive environment.
She continued to work with this student, watching the progress the young girl made from the structure that McGrogan and her co-op provided.
“I will never forget the day I connected with her,” McGrogan said. “I had a writing lesson plan that day, and I sat down with her.It took maybe a half hour to an hour to learn how to write the letter ‘P.’ She looked at me and said I was her favorite teacher.”
She determined after just one semester of student teaching that she wanted to return to a life skills classroom professionally and personally as a way to make an impact and to help students who otherwise lack resources.
She cited her grandmother when given the opportunity to discuss a hero who inspired her during difficult times.
“She always pushed the value of education and how much an individual can make an impact on a community,” McGrogan said. “In a life skills class, you know how much of a difference your students’ education is going to make in the long run, not only through them, but through their parents and families. You know how impactful it is going to be for them in school and outside of school.”
As McGrogan continues working toward her future, she leaves current and incoming students with this advice:
“Get involved. GET INVOLVED. And it is never too early to start collecting hours for teaching or making connections…take advantage of what life has to offer you, make friends, and utilize every opportunity Marywood has to offer.”