My Success Story By Whitney Pentecost

I asked myself when the last time I was happy in my job was.  That last time was when I was a teaching assistant at Purdue University.  I felt like back then, I loved what I did and made a difference.  I wanted to be able to experience that again.  

When I heard about an Adult Basic Education instructor position contracted under Oakland City University being opened at my current job at New Castle Correctional Facility, I didn’t hesitate to talk to Mr. Thombleson about an application.  Right after I applied for the position, I had an interview.  Mr. Thombleson offered me the position, and I immediately accepted.  I couldn’t have been happier and looked forward to my next journey as a teacher.

After accepting the position as an Adult Basic Education instructor under contract for Oakland City University, I worked on applying for my emergency permit.  After receiving my emergency permit, I started looking into the requirements I need to meet for my transition to a teaching license.  I had to first wait six months to apply for admission to transition to the teaching program.  I looked up schools through the Indiana state licensure to see what schools offer the transition to teaching program.  Luck fell into my hands that the same employer that I was contracted through offered it.  

During the six-month waiting period, I prepared and took my pedagogy exam.  It took me two times to pass it, but I did it.  The first time I took it, I felt defeated and embarrassed.   I was off by 17 points.  I felt embarrassed when I told Mr. Thombleson about it. I was thinking in my mind I should have no doubt passed it the first time as much studying as I’ve put into it.  I didn’t understand where I went wrong in the preparation process for this exam.  As it turns out, this was a very common occurrence.  Mr. Thombleson gave me the encouragement to try again.

I studied for the pedagogy exam for a month before taking it again.  There was no way I was going to give up.  I spent countless hours studying and making my own study guide for this exam.  On the day of the exam, my test anxiety was through the roof.  I kept thinking in the back of my mind that I have to pass this exam if I want to get my license.  

I remember after taking the exam that I was so nervous to even look at my unofficial score report.  I turned the paper over after receiving it and didn’t look at it until after I left the testing center and walked through the hallways at Ball State University.  Once I saw that I got a 223, I couldn’t be happier and relieved.  After I got back to the parking lot to my vehicle, the first person I called was my husband.  He was so thrilled for me.  He knew how hard I worked for this, and how much time I sacrificed to make this happen.  Seeing the smiles on my kids’ faces when I told them couldn’t have made me more blessed to know I can do this.  I couldn’t wait to tell Mr. Thombleson and my colleagues.

The next step for me was to apply for the transition to teach the program.  I applied for the transition to the teaching program through Oakland City University.  Shortly after I submitted my application, I get an email from Dr. Nancy Miller, who was also my academic advisor, that I was accepted into the program.  After that, I applied and got approved for my transition to a teaching license.  I was ready to start school that fall and continue to work towards my goals.  Here I am, getting ready to go to school while working full time, studying for my content area certification exam, and taking care of my family.  I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but I was up for the challenge.

While I was attending school, I was working with my students on literacy, life skills, and high school equivalency. I tried all types of teaching strategies to see what works best for my students.  It’s definitely a trial and error, especially in the beginning.  For me, it has been years since I stepped foot into a classroom.  At the same time, it was something I missed.  It was something I felt like I had a purpose.  I’ve had students make gains in literacy, achieved life skills, and had my first two students before the end of my first-semester pass and receive their high school equivalency.  At the end of my first semester, I completed half of my classes required and achieved a 4.0 GPA.  I applied for spring semester classes and made the same goals to achieve a 4.0 GPA and pass my biology praxis.

The biology praxis was definitely a challenge.  Like I said before, I really thought this exam was going to be easier than the pedagogy exam.  I couldn’t be more wrong.  The first time I took the biology praxis was Thanksgiving weekend.  My first thought was “What was I thinking?  On a holiday weekend?”  

I thought I could get biology praxis done and out of the way before my fall semester ended.  It didn’t turn out that way.  Just when I thought taking the test at home was going to make test-taking easier, it didn’t.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t given an option to take it at a testing center like the pedagogy exam.  There were all kinds of checks I had to do prior to taking the exam.  By the time, I got through the checks to take the exam, my test anxiety was through the roof.  I was in tears off and on while taking the exam. 

 After I took the exam, I submitted it for scoring.  I for sure thought I passed the test and thought that for the next two weeks.  Then again, something was telling me I didn’t.  This was my first time taking the praxis, so I didn’t know how the scoring process works.  For some reason, I was thinking that when I got a 146, it was out of 150.  I initially thought I passed.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.  It was 146 out of 200.  I needed a 150.  I was four points off.  I didn’t know that not only was the test going to be really hard to pass but that it was graded randomly.  I felt more defeated and embarrassed than when I failed the pedagogy exam the first time I took it.  I picked myself back up, scheduled to take it at least 28 days out, and studied again.

I kept going back and forth on what study strategies worked for the biology praxis and what didn’t.   I made myself study guides for the test.  28 days go by, and it’s test day.  I take the test again, thinking for sure I was going to pass it.  I got the same score of 146.  I cried and lost a ton of sleep.  I kept thinking, “Where did I go wrong?”  “Why can’t I pass this test?”  “Am I really wanting to pursue a teaching career?”  “How badly do I want this?”  “Did I really just let my boss, colleagues, and family down?”  These are questions that many teacher hopefuls can relate to all too well.

I got to talk to other teachers about this failed test.  The teachers I talked to share the exact same frustrations and letdowns I felt.  They were also very encouraging to each other about not giving up our dreams of becoming educators.  We all have this special gift to share in those classrooms.  I remember when Mr. Thombleson told me on his last day at his farewell lunch that I’m going to do great things.  This made me reflect on my vision statement that I created for one of my classes.   “Do great things today.  Do greater things tomorrow.”   I have every intention to do and accomplish that.

Once again, I picked myself back up and hit the books again.  I kept thinking to myself, “I’m going to do great things today and do great things tomorrow.”  I gave myself more time to study this time around.  I gave more time to my family and myself. I needed to do this in order to feel like myself again before going through this rigorous process again of taking this test.  Once I felt ready that I could take the exam, I scheduled it.

During my time finishing up my spring classes and preparing for my biology praxis, I was helping some of my students prepare for the Hi-Set.  I had five students total take the Hi-Set in February of 2022.  In the first week of March, my students’ Hi-Set results came in.  All five of my students passed the Hi-Set.  This felt like a dream.  I didn’t even think this could be possible.  My hard work in the classroom has been reflected in my students’ hard work on the test.  Before I knew it, it became the talk of the town.  I, Whitney Pentecost, ABE Instructor, who has not gotten her original instructional license yet, have the highest high school equivalency rate on the campus.  That I would say is my biggest accomplishment yet in my career.  I will forever cherish this accomplishment.  This gave me the extra boost I needed to help finish up my requirements for the transition to teach the program and prepare for that biology praxis.

Then on March 26th, 2022.  I had just finished my spring classes.  I’m waiting on my final grades to post.    I’m sitting in my living room getting ready to take my biology praxis for the third time.  Is it going to be a third time a charm?  I almost made myself sick prior to taking my biology praxis.  My test anxiety was at its worst.  I thought, “Look at the great things you have done so far.  You are going to do even greater things, and it starts now.”  I took a deep breath and started my exam.  I answered the easiest ones first and went back to the harder ones.  Of course, some I guessed.  I left those answers alone.  If later I found out those answers were wrong as I was reviewing the test, I changed it.  I only changed what answers I knew were 100 percent wrong.  These are the same testing strategies I gave my five students when they just took their Hi-Set and passed.  After completing and submitting my exam, I saw my score on the top right-hand corner of the screen.  I got a 152.  Two points higher than what I needed to pass.  I was screaming inside as I had to keep my composure until I exit the chatbox and ProctorU program.  After that, I was smiling and shaking as I was going back to get my phone to call my husband.  He had taken the kids out for a fun day while I was taking my test.  I told my husband and he told our kids.  All three were cheering and congratulating me for passing my test.  After they got home, we went out to celebrate.

What’s the next step?  I had to wait on my official score report for my biology praxis to be posted so that I can submit it to Indiana State Licensure.  It was the same process for my Oakland City University transcript.  I received a 4.0 GPA for my spring classes.  Once the rest of my documents were available, I downloaded, made copies, and sent them to Indiana State Licensure.  I applied for my original instructional license.  Two weeks later, I received my original instructional license for grades 5-12 in content area life science.  I had to take a double look at my license.  That’s the moment I realized that I did it.   All of my hard work has paid off.  I’m going to continue to do great things today and do greater things tomorrow.

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