From my earliest memories as a little girl, I wanted to be a teacher. On weekends, I used to play “school” with my brothers and cousins – yes, on weekends – and I much preferred playing teacher than student.
It stands to reason then as I was heading into my senior year of high school, my courses were designed to get me into college so I could earn a degree in education.
Enter the conversation.
You know the one. It’s where mom or dad – or other adult – has with you about your future. It’s the conversation with people who love you so much they tell you the truth. Here’s my story and how that conversation led me to Caldwell University.
I was talking with my mom about colleges I was considering to study education.
She asked why I wanted to be a teacher. I told her because teachers help others learn. Mom said, “You have champagne taste, and teachers make a beer salary.” The message was, you will either need to get a second job, marry rich or start liking beer, because you’ll never be happy living on a teacher’s salary.
At the time, my mom was a secretary at Prudential. She reported to the secretary of the CEO who had her own big office and staff. She saw the prestige, power and lifestyle that senior executive secretaries enjoyed. She wanted that for me. I just didn’t see that for myself. My dad just wanted me to be happy!
To appease mom, my senior year high school course work included typing and stenography. The deal was I would go to a secretarial sciences school only if it offered college courses so I could go on to get a degree in education and teach.
I was accepted into the two-year liberal arts program at Katharine Gibbs. It was then I discovered my love of writing and business communications. I graduated with an associate degree in Liberal Arts and got a great job as a secretary at Prudential. But I was impatient and wanted to get my bachelor’s degree.
Caldwell College, now Caldwell University, was nearby.
It had a great business administration program, fit my work schedule and accepted most of my Katharine Gibbs college course credits. I selected that program because it was relevant to my work and qualified for continuing education financial support from Prudential. I attended night classes and summer sessions for a few years and earned my Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration in 1994.
By the time I graduated from Caldwell University, I been promoted to the role of manager of communications at Prudential. In that role, I educated employees every day through communications. Some days I was even in front of a class or on camera, teaching other employees. That’s how my 25+ year career in employee communications began.
More than getting the degree, the experience at Caldwell University was far better than I expected.
I loved the professors. I loved the small class size. I loved the opportunity to write and continue studying literature and history. I loved the church bells chiming as I arrived on campus. I loved the catholic spirit and sense of community. I loved the example the professors, staff and other students set for me – not only at school, but in life.
While there I learned many things that continue serve me well in my career today. One that stands out is how to educate adults effectively. My professors used storytelling, humor, and authentic examples to draw in and engage students. I watched the professors bring diverse people together for a few hours a week and get them to collaborate quickly to achieve a goal, while learning and growing together. These lessons are relevant in my role at Bayer today.
Every day my team and I engage and educate employees about who we are, what we do, what we stand for, and the difference we make in people’s lives.
We then work to tell those stories in engaging ways so others can see the remarkable people behind our brand. What motivates me most is the opportunity to inspire our employees to be and perform their best despite the many challenges we face in society today. While I may not be a teacher in the traditional sense of the word, I teach every day.
It’s funny. If mom hadn’t steered me to a secretarial school, I’m not sure I would have found Caldwell University or built the incredible career I’ve enjoyed doing what I love most – helping others learn. If there’s one thing I learned along the way, it’s this: you don’t have to be a teacher to educate.