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Valedictorian Credits Others with Her Success

AACC's 2013 Valedictorian Michelle DeSanctis

May 24, 2013

Michelle DeSanctis thinks she was meant to be a teacher, but it is only after attending Anne Arundel Community College that she realized that all her past jobs seem to lead to a career in education.

“I’ve been a marketing director, bartender, loan officer – all these different jobs, but they always migrated to some form of training job. Now, it all makes sense,” she said.

The 30-year-old AACC Valedictorian will continue working toward a bachelor’s degree in education this fall at the University of Maryland College Park. Just as she was a part-time student at AACC, she plans to attend UMCP part-time because it fits better with her schedule as the mother of 3-year-old and 18-month-old children.

DeSanctis’ journey to this point is typical of many community college students. After graduating from high school in Maine, she took a year off before attending college for about a year and a half.

“When I first went to school in 2003, education didn’t have the value it has now for me. I wasn’t focused.”

When her father opened his own business, she quit college to become his sales manager. While she always planned to return to college someday, “life happened,” she said. She met her husband, Leonardo, at a ski resort in Maine, fell in love, moved to Maryland and worked as an optician until their first child was born.

About four years ago, she started contemplating returning to college and she credits her husband with convincing her she could do it. “He’s really the reason I’m here,” she said.

DeSanctis had some financial help through a scholarship from the IKO Foundation. Once here, she attributes her success to several people.
• Her mother-in-law, Dona DeSanctis shifted her own job from full- to part-time so she could volunteer to watch the DeSanctis children two days a week, so Michelle didn’t have to worry about child care.
• In her first semester, history Professor Frank Alduino told her he expected her to make As, not just in his class, but in all her classes. “We were just chatting after class, and he said it with such conviction, well, when someone invests so much in you, you don’t want to let them down. He set the bar higher than I’d set it for myself.”
• Then, Teacher Education and Child Care (TEACH) Institute Assistant Professor Jaclyn Gambone, Ph.D., guided her toward teaching in “Foundations of Education.” “I didn’t know I wanted to be a teacher; she never pushed me toward teaching, but the way she presented it is now the way I raise my family. I’ve fallen in love with the process of education and I want to be involved in it.”
• The TEACH curriculum that puts students in a classroom during their first education class also allowed her to try out the profession before investing too much time in it. “Trying on the shoes and realizing they fit is good.”

She’s uncertain what grade or area she will ultimately teach. Sometimes, she thinks fourth or fifth graders would be her favorite. Other times, she thinks she might want to teach history or English. She thinks  her niche will become evident as she takes more education courses.

As DeSanctis  moves forward, she realizes she has learned more than just the material from her classes. Her advice to students still in college is to keep on working toward their goals.

“If it’s important, you find a way to do it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help because people will surprise you.”