Mary Tyler, Education
By Caitlin Hofen
“I’ve always needed extra help when it came to learning,” said Mary Tyler, an early childhood education major. “So I want to help the children like me who need a little more support.”
Originally from West Africa, Tyler was adopted by a family in the United States 16 years ago and graduated from Alva High School in 2014. After that, she graduated from cosmetology school and worked for a year and a half in the profession.
Tyler’s next career move is what inspired her to start her collegiate journey.
“I worked at the Washington Early Childhood Education Center in Alva for four and a half years as a paraprofessional,” Tyler said. “In December 2021, I chose to pursue a degree in early childhood education. I loved working with kids and I decided I didn’t want to just be an assistant. I wanted to be an educator.
“By watching these children grow and learn, I decided I wanted to get my degree. I chose Northwestern because it was close, and I had heard the education program was really good.”
As Tyler prepared to take the next steps in her educational journey, she faced some doubts along the way.
“I’ve only had four years of public education,” Tyler said. “I didn’t go to school in West Africa, and then I was homeschooled when I came to the United States. The fullest education I’ve ever had was from 9th grade to 12th grade. The idea of taking the chance to go to college was the biggest obstacle I had to overcome, because I didn’t think I could.
“I’ve learned to adapt to college life like everyone else. I know many struggle with school, so I’ve accepted the fact that I’m going to have hardships. I’ll just have to work through the challenges and not give up. Putting in the work and asking questions have built my confidence since I started.”
Tyler said her goal is to specialize in special education to help students like her.
“I’ve always had to overcome barriers when it comes to my education,” Tyler said. “If I can do it, I want to be able to encourage children that they can do it, too. That is my motivation to continue my education. Working with children for so long opened my eyes as to how I can help.”
Since starting her collegiate career, Tyler found encouragement somewhere she didn’t expect.
“Dawn Allen was my Composition professor during my first year,” Tyler said. “English has always been a struggle for me, but she constantly reassured me I was capable of doing the work. She and I created a relationship I’m so thankful to have.”
Tyler offers advice to those thinking about starting college.
“Give it a try,” Tyler said. “You’re going to doubt yourself like I did and it’s going to be scary. It’s a whole new world and nothing like you experienced in high school. If you give yourself the chance to try it out, you’ll find out if it’s right for you. Don’t hold yourself back.”