Sharale McGowan

Sharale McGowan
Major/Job Title:
Elementary Education BA; Family Services, Women & Gender Studies Certificate; Special Education Strategist I
Waterloo, Iowa
Class Year:
Spring 2024

Purple Pathway for Paraeducators
Teach Waterloo

Sharale McGowan

Why did you choose this degree -- and to pursue this degree at UNI?

Although this is not my first go around with attending UNI, I have always wanted to work in education. So when the opportunity came, I knew this was the time to try again. I've always wanted to be a teacher, I love helping children learn and I feel like this is my calling. UNI is closer to home and I was always told the best teaching college in the Midwest, so why not go to the best and be 30 minutes from my home. 

What kind of path did you take to achieve your degree? 

My first time in college (UNI) I was in the education major and changed it a few times after that, not obtaining a degree. I did find that no matter what class I took, I always had helping children learn in mind. Several years later I was offered a job as a special education paraeducator. Instantly a lot of teachers were asking me, if I had the opportunity to go back, would I? By the end of my first year in the district, I was being sent links for the Purple Pathway for Paraeducators and soon I was able to apply for a scholarship in our school district that would pay for my schooling and allow me to keep my job. The Purple Pathway program was being launched and I am so glad I was able to be the first class to go through the program. It is a wonderful program that was set up for paraeducators to obtain their teaching degree. A lot of us already had an AA or credits enough to be in the program. This program allowed us to keep our job with the school district and still take classes. Taking a Wednesday class was best for me and my family. I still got to be there for my family and complete classes in a timely manner.

Describe your field experience and how it has prepared you for your career. 

With the program being offered to paras, we are technically ahead of most students in the College of Education. We know what the classroom should be and have some class management skills. We know the type of curriculum out there and it made it easy for when we did have to student teach, it was a natural feeling. It made going into the classroom a lot smoother and I personally was a bit more comfortable than I would be if I did not have this added experience.

What does completing your degree mean to you?

Completing this degree means everything to me. I've wanted to be a teacher since I was a little girl. I have a love for education and I always say I am always a student. This was a dream of mine and I am so proud that I was able to complete it. No matter what was placed in my path I finished. This degree isn't just for me, but for my family--my kids. This shows them that no matter what, you are able to chase and complete your dreams and that education at any age is okay.

What challenges did you face as you worked toward this degree – and how did you overcome them?

Being a non-traditional student and part of the Purple Pathway teaching program, it was hard to manage my time as the student and my time as a mother. There were times I felt I was missing out on important events for my children due to having class during times I am usually with them. But they were also my support system; they kept telling me "Mom, you can do it, you're almost there" and they sat with me doing homework some nights. They are the reason I kept going when times felt like the end was not near.

How did UNI help you achieve your goals?

With the Purple Pathway program, I was able to keep my full-time job with my school district and have classes at times that worked best for me.

We often say UNI is student focused; a place where professors care--and teach; a place where learning happens in and out of the classroom;  and is perfectly sized. How do these statements ring true for you?

They created a good program for their students and have given much thought on what to consider for the best way to deliver it. They truly thought about who they would benefit from the program and in my opinion, it has worked.

Next steps?

My next steps are to apply within my district as a teacher or a special education Strat 1. Wherever I go, I know I will enjoy it. My next step is to learn another language like Spanish and learn ASL. This will help me be able to communicate with the community around me and the students that will come to my classroom in the future.