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Passion for education helps student sew new skills

Kathryn Kao

May 4, 2017

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Over 10 years ago, Ashley Nylin (M.Ed. '09) was working in the fashion industry, but every now and then, while sitting in her New York apartment, she felt that familiar "teaching bug" nudging her to make a change.

ashley nylin

"I knew I wanted to teach and get my PhD, so I called [the University of Georgia]," she said. "The idea of being a professor-in-residence and teaching onsite classes is something that I am very excited about."

While Nylin was enjoying her experience in the Big Apple, she wanted to make a direct impact on society instead of obsessing over designer outfits. In the end, she decided to pursue her passion of teaching, and in two years, graduated with a master's degree in middle grades education from the College of Education. Afterward, Nylin began teaching middle school in Gwinnett County while also earning her specialist's degree in curriculum and instruction from Piedmont College.

Now a doctoral student in the department of educational theory and practice, Nylin works with the Professional Development School District (PDSD), a partnership between the College of Education and the Clarke County School District (CCSD), as a field instructor for seven pre-service teachers.

For Nylin, watching her students grow during the semester is a powerful and rewarding experience. Last month, she had the opportunity to hear them speak about the benefits of working with the partnership during the National Association of Professional Development Schools (NAPDS) Conference in Washington, D.C., an annual gathering of educators working within a school-university partnership.

"I get to see [my students] in two different spaces and hear them share their learning—it makes me really want to continue this work," said Nylin. "The PDS is a clinical experience like medical school where you are in the trenches, and you are seeing things that you can talk about in the classroom."

Nylin took part in four presentations at the conference discussing topics ranging from community partnerships and Camp DIVE—a partnership between the CCSD, the College of Education and the Athens-Clarke County community—to the College's Office of School Engagement (OSE). As a second-year doctoral student, Nylin is interested in learning more about how the PDS uses service-learning and community engagement to prepare new teachers.

"Having the conference registration covered [by OSE] was huge," said Nylin. "By being able to add these things to my CV, it's helping me professionally and as a full-time student.

As a graduate assistant, Nylin must commute from her home in Decatur to Athens at least three to four times a week. Funding opportunities that allow her to present her research interests and watch her colleagues and students discuss their passions for teaching at national conferences can alleviate some financial stress, while preparing her professionally as a researcher.

After graduation, Nylin hopes to continue working with community partnerships to help pre-service teachers gain real-world experience through hands-on service-learning opportunities.

"I'm just very grateful to be in any way related to all of this PDS work and the opportunity to learn from such a stellar partnership," said Nylin. "Everything education-related to me is held to a UGA standard, and that's a very high standard.