As a child, SMSU senior Taylor Swenson used to line her dolls up in the living room in her own make believe classroom. That's where her dream of becoming a teacher was nurtured.
The Pipestone native will graduate summa cum laude today with a degree in Elementary Education, with a Special Education minor.
She completed her 16-week student teaching May 2 in Edgerton, where she taught kindergartners. And she's happy to have found her first job, teaching second-graders in Ivanhoe next year.
"I knew when I was little that I wanted to be a teacher," she said. "I chose SMSU because I knew it has a very good education program. I also wanted to be close to home. It's a very good school, the people are super nice and the education professors were very welcoming when I took my tour."
Swenson has it all in front of her. She is graduating, has a job, and is making wedding plans for her Sept. 12, 2015, nuptials to Carlton Johnson, an accounting major and senior-to-be at SMSU. "We were high school sweethearts," she said.
Like many education majors, Swenson was influenced by a teacher growing up. "Third grade, Mrs. (Teresa) Staats," she said. "She was very personable, and related to students, which is important. She made learning fun. I wanted to come to school every day. I want to be that person - I want to be someone special for another student."
She chose the elementary level because "I think it's fun to see the kids grow in their own ways. They are our future, and I like to be a part of that."
The SMSU education program is known for its quality graduates, and a big part of that is because potential teachers get into the classroom early in their academic careers.
"Our first year, we have a 15-hour field experience in our Intro to Ed class. That helps you decide right away if you want to be a teacher. My favorite part (of the program) has been our Classroom Management class. We had a two-day clinical where we taught everything during the day - the regular teachers let us take over. Last year it was at Park Side (in Marshall). Our second day, it snowed and was icy and they let out early. But that's part of the experience, the real life of a teacher."
SMSU graduates get jobs. Ninety-nine percent (2012 data) found work, and 95 percent are in their field of study. Swenson is set to go out into the work world with her eyes wide open, and is the type of quality student that can be found at SMSU. "I'm fortunate to have found a job, and a big part of that is because the program is so strong. They get you into the classroom and let you experience what teaching is all about."
She'll miss the friendships, of course. "You know everyone in the education department," she said. "And a lot of them are my friends."
Swenson, the daughter of Theresa and Terry Swenson, will graduate with a 3.93 grade-point-average. She's looking forward to walking across the stage - to hearing her name read aloud by the golden voice of Dean Jan Loft. "It's just amazing how time has gone so fast."