Sunday, November 30, 2008

Mary Grace Dixon

What is your definition of success?

MGD: My definition of success is one’s ability to reflect on what they have accomplished and feeling that they made an impact (good or bad). However, I also feel that success is never final because there is always room for improvement. This is why I would call something I have accomplished a “marking point” rather than a success, telling me I can move on to my next challenge.

If you could pass any bit of information or one piece of advice onto the world, what would it be?

MGD: There is so much advice I want to give, I’m going to be a teacher remember?

-Never doubt what you are capable of accomplishing. You may not know until you are presented with a challenge, but reflect knowing you did the best you could.

-Think before you speak, one that I have learned the hard way many times.

-Always have a clean pair of dress pants in your closet.

-Never make assumptions based on what others tell you. Learn for yourself.

-Read books. When you have finished one, start another.

-Learn to cook one or two dishes very well.

-Smile as much as you can.

-Laughter really is the best medicine.

-Don’t take yourself too seriously. Be a goofball sometimes.

-Listen to your mother. She is almost always right.

What do you consider your greatest personal strength? Weakness?

MGD: One of my greatest strengths would have to be my compassion. I love making people feel good about themselves and helping them through difficult times. It is a trait I have been fortunate enough to inherit from my mother. It also works as one of my weaknesses, I am often too involved and feel that I have failed when I do not solve someone else’s problems. I need to learn to let go at times.

Having known you for many years now and knowing that you are about to begin your career in elementary and special education, tell me a little bit about your background in and your passion for helping people with disabilities.

MGD: I graduated high school well aware of my abilities when it came to working with children. Not sure if I wanted to pursue that pathway at the time, I began my fall 2004 semester at Broome Community College with a goal of being an educator, but not sure of what kind. I contemplated high school Spanish, History and English, all of which I was never really passionate about, just good at. As I was taking classes, I had a mess of odd jobs that were nothing more than a paycheck to me. It was when my older brother Chris moved back to Binghamton to begin a position at Community Options, Inc., and was looking for help that I began to get some clarity.

This company’s mission is to develop long and short term goals for adults with disabilities that ultimately make them independent members of society. They needed more staff to be trained to work with the individuals in accomplishing their goals, so I thought I’d try it. It was then I realized my passion, I loved every minute I spent with these adults. I left everyday knowing I made a difference in someone’s life. Was it difficult? Sometimes difficult was not strong enough of a word, but I never felt defeated. That’s how I knew that this was something I needed to pursue for the rest of my life. After that, I transferred to SUNY Geneseo and enrolled in their rigorous program, still loving every new experience and constantly seeking more information. I substitute at Community Options when I am home, and also work at Broome/Tioga BOCES. I learn something new every time I work with a child or an adult with a disability, which to me is what being an educator is all about: lifelong learning.

What are some of your short term and mid term goals?

MGD: A short term goal of mine would be to complete student teaching, which is roughly two weeks from now, and graduate in May. I also plan to start applying for teaching positions and to graduate schools in January; the earlier the better. By next fall, I hope to be teaching or in graduate school, but hopefully both. Long term goals for me are slightly more arbitrary, I never like to plan too far ahead because I feel it may distract from new opportunities I didn’t plan on. Ultimately I want to be teaching, married, and have children of course but putting a time frame on it would personally make me feel pressured to meet that goal and possibly settle if I were to be at that “goal point” in my life, and settling to me is unacceptable.

Who are three people from any time period that you would like to meet?

MGD: The first would be Carol Burnett, a woman who truly finds humor in all walks of life. Another would be Temple Grandin, a woman who is a major advocate for awareness and acceptance of individuals with Autism. Lastly, I would want to meet John Lennon, a revolutionary through his music.

What are some of your favorite books? Quotes?

MGD: Books: “Thinking in Pictures” and “Animals in Translation” by Temple Grandin. She reveals her life as a woman with Autism and how she and the rest of the Autistic community see the world. I will also forever love the Harry Potter series. Living vicariously through Harry’s life for a few chapters at a time pretty much got me through high school. Lastly, “Educating Esme” by Esme Raji Codell is a personal favorite. In her book, Codell writes about her first year as a teacher in an impoverished area and I feel it should be required reading among elementary education majors.

Quotes: “Go confidently in pursuit of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”-Henry David Thoreau

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”-Ferris Bueller

“Time you enjoy wasting was not wasted”-John Lennon

Final thoughts?

MGD: Do what you love and settle for nothing less.

Mary Grace Dixon

SUNY Geneseo '09

Elementary / Special Education