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New teacher inspired by biology professor

Whitworth Master in Teaching Program graduate Shannon Wessel '17, MIT '18, has come to learn that relationships are everything in the teaching profession. In fact, it was the care shown to her by a Whitworth faculty member that inspired her to become a teacher.

At one point as an undergraduate biology major, Wessel struggled with some personal issues. Associate Professor of Biology Mike Sardinia noticed and invited her to come talk with him and process what was going on. He told Wessel she could use his office anytime she needed to be alone.

"I will never be able to express to him how much that meant to me. I had a safe place. He cared about me more as a person than a student," Wessel says. "That is when I found myself thinking I'd like to become a teacher. I loved science but couldn't see myself becoming a doctor or doing research. I could see myself caring for young people and wanting to make them feel loved and cared for like Dr. Mike did with me."

Shannon Wessel stands in the middle of Whitworth's campus and smiles.

A fresh graduate, Wessel hopes to teach high school science on the west side of Washington in the Sumner or Puyallup school districts.    

In the classroom, Wessel will incorporate qualities she has honed through MIT program like empathy, strength and commitment. She has a heart for meeting students where they're at and helping them find success no matter their initial skill levels. 

"Each child learns differently, and it's our job as teachers to find a way for all types of learners to be successful. It's exhausting but extremely rewarding," she says. 

Wessel says the best way to help students start to engage is by getting to know them. "Keith Lambert told us that kids don't care how much you know until they know how much you care," she says, referring to the Whitworth assistant professor of education. 

Wessel is excited to represent women in science and encourage students to pursue their interests in STEM. "The STEM field is one in which women are making a huge impact, and I'm proud to be a part of the movement," she says.

She recognizes science can be an intimidating field for students, but believes that "where there is interest and passion, there is possibility."   

"Getting the chance to work with young people and excite them about the subject I'm passionate about while providing them a safe place to learn and grow is what I hope to do, thanks to Dr. Mike," Wessel says.