Grow Your Own student applies literacy skills in elementary school

Contact: Chris Hybels

KALAMAZOO. Mich.—Lupita Eufracio, a paraprofessional at Lawton Elementary, is pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher through Western Michigan University's Grow Your Own (GYO) program. Through courses in her elementary education program, she is starting to apply new techniques when teaching children's literacy.

"I believe that the bachelor's degree will help me pursue my passion in elementary education," says Eufracio, a paraprofessional at the Lawton, Michigan school. "My dream position would be working in a first grade classroom and the opportunity given to me through the Grow Your Own program at WMU will make it quicker and easier to get into a classroom." 

Funded by the Michigan Department of Education, GYO supports 80 school districts in the state by providing school employees seeking initial certification or additional endorsements with a tuition-free education. Western's College of Education and Human Development hosts more than 25 of those school districts, including Van Buren Intermediate School District (VBISD), and offer multiple bachelor's and master's degree options. Eufracio is a part of the expedited three-year elementary education Bachelor of Science program in the Department of Teaching, Leaning and Educational Studies.

"I first heard about GYO through an email from VBISD. They told us that the program was going to be available to us and we would be able to get a bachelor's degree in elementary education through WMU," says Eufracio.

As a paraprofessional at Lawton Elementary, she works with 10 different groups of children each day. Between two to five children each, the groups range from kindergarten to fourth grade  Children in the groups require extra help in order to meet their grade level reading requirements. In the small group setting, she is able to lead them through different reading exercises to improve their literacy skills.

According to Eufracio, she has already started to incorporate what she has learned from the elementary education program into her teaching. The most impactful course so far has been about children's literature, and the teaching of children's texts with emphasis on critical sensitivity and techniques necessary for interpreting and evaluating works for young readers.

"I find myself being more interested in what books they're reading," says Eufracio. "My professor, Dr. Jill Hermann-Wilmarth, brings so much passion to what she teaches which helps me fall more in love with children's literature. She gives us great resources and tools, and helps with bringing love to books with our children."

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