In many ways, Pivotal Educators are unsung heroes, playing disproportionately impactful roles as classroom teachers, college counselors, and mentors in the postsecondary educational trajectory of their students. We think it’s important to reveal some of their transformational, meaningful, and thought-provoking stories in this series we call Pivotal Moments.
To kick off this series, Karl Remsen shared a Pivotal Moment of his about a student he mentored, William. William came from a family with split immigration status and almost dropped out of high school. With some support from Karl, William went on to college, eventually receiving his master’s, and is now working towards his doctorate.
Karl’s support for William truly embodies what it means to be a Pivotal Educator. In the following article, the University of Colorado Denver features Karl’s meaningful impression on William:
While the article above features the profound impact that receiving a pivotal education had on William, Karl reflects on his experience of mentoring William as mutually transformative. Karl shares:
While William may cite me as one of the factors that helped to propel him to college, William also had an impact on my future as an educator.
At the time I met William, I was working at a private semester school where students from all over the country came to our small town to experience a semester in the Rocky Mountains. A majority of students had parents who attended college and were financially capable of paying not only for college but also for a decade worth of private education.
William was remarkable as well, but he did not have the resources that my students did. When he took his first dual enrollment class at our local community college, the process of buying books was confusing and intimidating. He had no one in his family who knew what the FAFSA was. I helped him tour a college campus he was interested in. It was easy for me to see what I could offer to him–guidance on how to navigate the path from high school junior to college freshman.
After William was in college, he came back repeatedly to talk to and work with students at our public school. He knew that the personal connection he shared with students who knew him could help to inspire others to believe that they, too, were capable of attending and being successful at college.
I realized the assets William had that I was missing. He was connected to every aspect of our community. When William walked into a quinceañera, both grandmas and toddlers would greet him. I saw how his journey inspired his cousin to pursue his dream of being an engineer. William personified the power of a strong community connection.
I made a change; I started teaching at our public school. I learned about the families that lived here, not the ones who lived in faraway states. I listened to the hopes and dreams that had driven them to cross borders for a new start or to weather the booms and busts of our town’s mining history. I learned to see the barriers that students faced and to help them overcome them. I didn’t just want to be a guide on their journey, I wanted to be part of their community.
I have a lot to learn still, but I’m glad that William opened my eyes to the power of connection.
We understand our network between educators, students, K-12, and higher education as a reciprocal experience of learning and growth. Karl’s Pivotal Moment shines a spotlight on the essence of The Pivotal Network — the “power of connection”.