Kirstin LaDuke

A student sits in the grass holding a laptop in front of a playground for children.

RICHLAND, Mich.—Changing the world one classroom at a time. That’s the goal for Gull Lake High School and Kalamazoo Area Math and Science Center graduate Kirstin LaDuke. She’s committed to attend Western Michigan University and Lee Honors College as an elementary education major this fall.

“Teaching is such an important job … especially at a young age, you really start to make an impact on those kids’ lives,” LaDuke says. “I’ve loved working with kids for a really long time, but I think mainly what pushed me to go into (education) was to spark change.”

The Richland, Michigan, native has seen the impact teachers make on their students’ lives, and vice versa, starting with her mother who has served as an early childhood education teacher. While there are numerous moments of triumph in an educator’s life, LaDuke says, there are also moments of struggle.

“Seeing what (my mom) kind of went through and how she was kind of treated as a teacher, I definitely wanted to think about ways that you could change the system.”

Fighting for more funding, fighting to ensure the right people are in crucial positions that are key for a child’s development and speaking out for what she believes in are all goals for LaDuke. 

“I always want to fight for a reformed education system, because I believe what’s being taught and how the system is being run is failing our kids,” she says.

LaDuke will begin her journey for reform by entering the College of Education and Human Development to become an educator who is committed to teaching for social justice. Throughout the elementary education program, she will learn how to engage students of all backgrounds and increase her knowledge of schools and social systems, both in and out of the classroom.

She hopes to not only prime the world’s future leaders, but become an advocate for others tasked with the same duty.

“If I could potentially change the education system and make it even better … these kids will grow up and realize their full potential,” she explains. “I really feel like I have a strong enough background in leadership in order to maybe get that rolling and start to make an impact.”


In some ways, LaDuke’s WMU journey was set into motion before she was even born. Her parents met while they were students at the University in the ‘90s.

A woman sitting at a picnic table in front of a white church and a tree.

“They started dating in ‘92, and were married in ‘95. Their history was definitely a contributing factor in my decision, because I would not be here if it weren’t for WMU,” she says.

Already one of her top choices, WMU was especially attractive for its close proximity to LaDuke’s loved ones. Then she took a tour of the University where she forged her own connections, meeting current Lee Honors College students majoring in education.

“I definitely thought that I could find my niche here at Western,” she says. “It was a really easy decision.”

Now LaDuke is following in her mother’s footsteps, attending WMU to become an early education teacher. She believes to reach her future goals, she needs to start where it all began.

“I thought that I could continue on my college journey from (my parents’) starting place, and find where I fit in the world.”

To read about more student experiences, visit First-Year Faces online.