For many college students, ideal jobs often come post-graduation. But some students get to experience their dream jobs while still in school.
This was the case for Becca Paholski, the Dallas, Texas native who will soon earn her master’s degree in human environmental sciences, in the general studies and conflict management certificate online program.
Growing up a teacher’s daughter, Paholski always knew she wanted to work with kids, so it was fitting that she follow in her mom’s footsteps and become a teacher as well.
She first came to UA four years ago on a full-tuition Presidential Scholarship to study education. The high-achieving Paholski, who brought 39 Advanced Placement credits with her, finished her bachelor’s degree in just three years, but she wasn’t ready for her college experience at UA to be over. Since she had a full year of scholarship funds left, she decided to use it for a graduate degree.
Paholski chose a program offered exclusively online. As a distance learner, she’d be free to take advantage of other opportunities, like a teaching position at Cottondale Elementary School, which she called a dream job.
Although she was hesitant to do a program that was offered only online, she said it was an amazing experience.
“Everyone in the program has been so flexible and accommodating at a level I wasn’t accustomed to in my undergrad program,” said Paholski, who also worked as a graduate assistant at the Capstone Center for Student Success. “My professors were so helpful and allowed me to squeeze the program into one year. The flexibility it offered me was great — if I wanted to take a week off to travel, I could do that without worrying about falling behind.”
Even though she was an online learner and had two jobs, Paholski still enjoyed the full experience of her last year of college, as she continued to live in her sorority house and was very involved in campus life.
The fluent Spanish speaker said that one of the biggest bonuses of online-only classes was the door it opened for her to teach.
“Working as the computer teacher at Cottondale over the last year was so rewarding,” she said of the position she held until schools closed amid the coronavirus crisis. “It was the perfect fit. I feel that I have been called to serve students, and teaching is the best way that I know how to do that.”
With the semester wrapping up remotely, Paholski misses her friends, life at UA and especially her students at Cottondale.
“The hardest part of this has been leaving my students,” she said. “I didn’t even get to tell them goodbye, and that has been gut wrenching for me.”
These uncertain times leave many holes in her future, and she doesn’t know exactly when that future will start; but she has a pretty good idea of what it will look like once it begins.
“This whole thing has shown me that I’m ready to get back in the classroom,” Paholski said. “I plan to move back to Texas and teach in a school with a high Hispanic population, and I know I’ll be able to put my Spanish proficiency to good use. I hope to teach in an underserved community, in particular, so I can spend my career serving students who are less fortunate.”