Drive for Equity Motivates Educator
Student Stories: Jakaya Crump, MS in Special Education ‘20
Jakaya “Kaye” Crump earned her MS in Special Education from Quinnipiac University to continue her drive for equity in the classroom. Although her journey was not easy, Kaye’s determination to find happiness and success won out. She relied on her past to guide her to a bright future both personally and professionally, and Quinnipiac’s special education program has helped Kaye gain the knowledge and skills to become the educator she feels her students deserve.
Kaye’s experience as a young student growing up in the inner city has influenced her desire to address inequity in education on a larger scale. Her long-term goal is to earn her doctorate in education, focusing on unconscious bias in education.
Kaye looks back on how her experiences as a child has shaped the person she is today. She grew up in a less than stable environment where her mother and father were absent for most of her childhood. She expressed that she was not heard at home and she did not feel heard in school until she met three teachers who provided the guidance, encouragement and support she needed.
With the direction and help of her high school history teacher, Kaye joined the teacher preparatory program and became a teacher assistant. Kaye enjoyed working with students and learning from the educators in her school. As senior year of high school approached, Kaye was met with a tough decision. She was torn between a degree in education and a less certain future of becoming a writer. Throughout Kaye’s life, writing was something she could always count on and she felt a deep connection to her stories and ability to tell them. She felt she owed it to herself to pursue this dream. During her first year at college, there was one class that made a life-changing impact on her. She taught inner city children all types of dance including ballroom, ballet, and hip hop. In those moments, she knew exactly what she wanted to do. With the help of her mentor, Kaye moved home and began her degree in education to become a history teacher.
In her senior year of college, and under immense pressure to pass the teacher certification exam and student teach in the fall semester, Kaye knew her future as a teacher was on the line. She turned to her second mentor, her academic advisor, for support. Before the fall semester began, Kaye learned she was expecting her first child, due in the spring. Her advisor became a true source of stability during this time. She supported Kaye throughout student teaching and the licensure exam and made sure that Kaye’s accessibility needs were met throughout her pregnancy. Kaye graduated, got her first teaching job and became a new mother within months of each other. Although she was nervous, excited and overwhelmed all at the same time, her drive to overcome any obstacles and her maternal instinct to care for her young daughter superseded anything else. She was ready to begin the next stage of her life.
While Kaye began her job with optimism and excitement, she felt she should have been better prepared to teach a diverse student population. She wanted to give each of her students the attention, understanding and education she felt they deserved. Determined to seek out answers, Kaye researched different master’s programs and found that Quinnipiac University’s MS in Special Education program could meet her needs as an educator.
It was at Quinnipiac where she met her third mentor, Professor Falaro, the program director for the special education program. Their relationship began over a cup of coffee at a meet and greet and continues today. Kaye was balancing a full-time job along with being a single parent as she entered the master’s program. At times, it was difficult to manage work, family and school responsibilities, and Professor Falaro’s support and encouragement came at the right time. Throughout the program Kaye took what she learned from the program and applied techniques to her own classroom, and she saw things begin to change. Kaye implemented new tools into her lessons, including technology like gaming applications and videos. She saw positive changes in her students and curious teachers and administrators often came into her classroom to see what new techniques she was using. From the MS in Special Education program, Kaye also gained a deep understanding of special education law and supports for students. As a fourth-grade special education teacher, Kaye advocates for her students to give them the support they need to be successful in school.
Becoming an educator allows Kaye to provide her students a safe place to learn, to feel acknowledged and be part of a community. “School has always been my outlet and I was good at it. You go from home and people don’t see you, and then you get to school, and people see you. That is why teaching is so important to me. Adults see the potential in you that you don’t even know you have, or you don’t even know you are capable of. It literally only takes somebody to say they believe in you.”
Q & A
What did you like most about your program?
I liked the convenience of it being online. The continued guidance/counseling was helpful because you always knew what classes to register for. Each course was well planned out, the syllabus was detailed and you knew what to expect from the course. The professors were timely with communication and flexible. There were ample opportunities to tie in previous learning and experiences.
How has this program helped you in your career?
Since completing the program, I was able to relocate to another state and secure a special education job during the pandemic.
How were your interactions with faculty and your fellow classmates in the online classroom?
The faculty was very supportive and engaging. They provided sufficient feedback to help you grow. Educators have a way of connecting with one another in a way that only we can understand. This transcended into our discussions and group assignments, allowing us to connect and support one another as well as give/receive feedback.
What aspects of the program do you draw from during your day-to-day professional life?
Compassion! There were several occasions where being a teacher, single-mom and graduate student became very hard. As much as I wanted to, I just could not do it all and the professors were always compassionate. This stayed with me, and I continue to extend this compassion to my fellow co-workers and current students without compromising my expectations.
Three of her teachers came into her life when she needed someone to believe in her and Kaye is better off for each one of those relationships. Kaye provides a place for her students to grow and be recognized for all they are and all they can be. Quinnipiac’s MS in Special Education program has given her the ability to make a positive difference in the lives of her students and furthers her desire to create meaningful change in education.