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January is National Mentoring Month, and throughout the month, WGU Connection will be highlighting stories of WGU mentors and the students they’ve helped along the way.
Interview with Rachel Brand
Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education, Interdisciplinary Studies (K-8)
Twentynine Palms, California
Rachel Brand is a military wife working on earning her teaching certification online through WGU. A cross-country move to a remote military base made her wonder whether her dreams of becoming a teacher would ever come true. Today, she’s student teaching and is just nine weeks away from earning her degree. She says she couldn’t have done it without her mentor, Dorothee Kocks (pictured).
How did you end up at WGU?
I lived in Georgia and I had completed one year at an on-campus school. I got married to my husband, who is in the U.S. Marine Corps. We moved from Georgia all the way across the country to California, to the Mojave Desert in the middle of nowhere.
My college choices were very limited, and I was disappointed. Finishing my degree was important to me.
I went to the resource center here on base, but none of the colleges there appealed to me. But then I found WGU. You guys had a Teachers College, so it caught my interest. I did a lot of research, and I decided this was the school for me.
What has been the most significant or helpful thing about having Dorothee as a mentor as you’ve gone through your degree program?
Being a military spouse is really hard sometimes. It’s really easy to feel like everything is going on at once. My problem sometimes is getting burned out. She’s always telling me, "Pace yourself. Take a break. Make some time for you."
She’s gotten me this far. I’ve got nine weeks left and I’ll be graduating.
But it’s not just academic help. On a personal level, she’s always asking how things are going for me. It’s so nice to know I have someone who is interested, who can listen to me, and who wants to be there for me.
Do you have a story of an incident when Dorothee’s assistance was especially important to you, or an example of her assistance going above and beyond what you expected?
I’m in a unique situation – I want to get my teaching license in Georgia, not in California, even though I’m living in California and doing my demonstration teaching here
I thought I had to go to Georgia to take my PRAXIS exam, so I flew to Georgia to take my exam. Then I come back to California and find out the law had changed. I realized, "Oh my gosh, I took the wrong test!"
Dorothee was awesome. She contacted the school, got me in touch with everyone I needed to talk to. The school helped me through it, got me all the right answers, helped me find the solutions I needed. I couldn’t have done it without Dorothee.
Living on a military base, do you have friends or neighbors also going through school? How does Dorothee’s mentorship supplement or complement on-base support?
I have one other friend who is going to another online university, so I have her to talk to about things. But the things we do are really different. Her school is not a competency-based school and mine is.
The amount of help I get from Dorothee and the staff at WGU is awesome compared to what my friend talks about receiving. She’ll talk about submitting questions and never getting anything back. Every time I have a question and submit it – be it to Dorothee or one of the course mentors or anyone else – I always hear back quickly and get the help I need.
What would you say are Dorothee’s most outstanding character traits? How would you describe her to someone?
Bubbly – she’s really friendly. Even though you’ve never met her, it’s like you know her. My husband is overseas now, but he’ll be back this spring, and we’re talking about how we can get to Utah for commencement this summer. I want to go not just to do the ceremony but because I want to meet Dorothee. I want to meet the person who helped me get through my school – emotionally and academically.
I want to stress how thankful I am for her encouragement. I know she has other students she mentors, but when I talk to her, I feel like I’m the only student she has. That’s how much attention she gives me. I feel completely taken care of.
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