The desire to teach took root early for Danielle Pelletier. When she was a child, she had a chalkboard in her room and helped her sister with homework and projects.
Now, in addition to earning her Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies in early childhood education, the Rosenberg woman is the Spring 2016 outstanding undergraduate student for the University of Houston-Victoria School of Education, Health Professions & Human Development. The outstanding graduate student is Rebecca Luna of Houston.
“Danielle and Rebecca have dedicated themselves to excellence while pursuing their degrees,” school Dean Fred Litton said. “Their hard work and commitment to education are inspiring, and I wish them well as they move forward in their careers.”
Each semester, professors from the three UHV schools select outstanding students to be honored during commencement. UHV will hold two spring graduation ceremonies on May 14 at Faith Family Church, 2002 E. Mockingbird Lane. The 9 a.m. ceremony will be for graduates of the schools of Arts & Sciences and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. The 1 p.m. ceremony will be for graduates of the School of Business Administration.
In addition to her own passion for teaching, Pelletier was inspired by a teacher in her Rosenberg elementary school when she was growing up. That teacher went beyond typical classroom instruction and also gave students support with life’s problems, Pelletier said.
“Her compassion and dedication in the classroom made me want to follow her example,” Pelletier said. “I want to help kids do more than just learn. I want to work with young children and touch their lives early on, so they have a solid foundation that will keep them wanting to learn as they grow up.”
Pelletier chose to attend UHV so she could take classes close to her job. She works for the Lamar Consolidated Independent School District as a paraprofessional in a prekindergarten class at Hubenak Elementary School in Richmond.
Luna also always wanted to work in education. Although she planned to eventually become a school counselor, Luna knew the importance of acquiring teaching experience first. She has taught for 13 years, 11 of those have been in the Katy Independent School District at Sue Creech Elementary where she is an English as a Second Language-Instructional Support Specialty Teacher.
At commencement, Luna will receive her Master of Education in school counseling. She chose to attend UHV because the university’s graduate programs in professional school counseling and community counseling are accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs. Attending a school with that accreditation will allow her to become a school counselor as well as a Licensed Professional Counselor. Luna also is the president for the UHV chapter of Chi Sigma Iota, an international counseling academic and professional honor society.
“Throughout my life, I struggled in school,” Luna said. “As a graduate student, I was determined to succeed and graduate with a 4.0 grade point average. After looking into different counseling programs, I knew that UHV would be the best fit for me and my family. The professors not only prepared me to become an effective counselor, but also demonstrated the importance of wellness and self-care. They were open and honest, and I felt that they always had my best interests at heart.”
Luna said three faculty members in particular left a lasting impact on her: assistant professor Jennifer Boswell, associate professor Elsa Soto Leggett and assistant professor Linda Autry.
Boswell and Leggett taught courses in play therapy, and they recognized Luna’s passion for helping children. Autrey’s course in abnormal psychology also captured her interest.
For Pelletier, the hands-on, interactive experience of classes helped her succeed. A classroom management course taught by adjunct instructor Katherine Kubelka helped her to understand how to keep a classroom running efficiently and successfully, and classes with associate professor Amy Barnhill gave Pelletier a love for reading and literacy in the classroom.
“The professors made things feel more like a community than a classroom,” Pelletier said. “I have a solid background in education now, and I feel well prepared to teach.”