Special education major follows her family legacy

July 15, 2022

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—For Audrey Cripps, a special education major, family has always been important. When it came time to choose a career path, she didn’t have to look any farther than her family for inspiration. Her mother, Ann Parmeter-Cripps (’94 B.S. Elementary Education, ’99 MA Reading) taught in the Portage Public Schools and her grandmother, Janice Parmeter, has operated a Specialized Residential Adult Foster Care Home for 54 years in Marcellus, Michigan.

“I chose Special Education for a couple reasons,” shared Audrey. “The individuals my grandmother cares for have been my family and I loved assisting her as a child. My mother was an elementary school teacher and homeschooled myself and continues to teach my siblings. With those two strong examples, I knew I wanted to work with people - specifically individuals with special needs.”

Ann Parmeter-Cripps, Audrey Cripps, and Janice Parmeter

Her great-grandmother, Margaret Caul Parmeter also happens to have attended WMU when it was still a teacher’s college. Unfortunately, she was not able to finish her coursework and did not graduate with a teaching degree. Her mother became ill and she stopped taking classes to stay home and help raise her younger brother. Soon after, she got married and began a family of her own and never went back to school.  

“When I’ve been at classes, I’ve often thought about what it could have been like when great-grandma was there,” explained Audrey.

Audrey is excited to build relationships with students and other staff members in the schools she will work in. Throughout her pre-internships, internship, and jobs she has found the greatest amount of joy comes from connecting with the individuals she teaches and works with. Finding out who they are, what they love to do, and how they discover things in the world is fascinating to her.

She also understands the importance of maintaining a good work and life balance. To this end, she has begun to develop habits like arriving to work early to set up for daily and weekly activities and designating time after the school day for work tasks. Then, she leaves her work at work so that when she arrives back home with her family – the same house she has lived in her whole life - she can be present.

“When I'm around home with my family, we honestly enjoy just talking together, going to my younger sibling's sports events or theater shows. We love watching movies or playing games together. I often spend evenings with my grandmother and grandfather, who live close by, watching mystery movies or chatting. Family is so very important and I'm grateful to live close to and with them.” 

She also reserves Sunday as a day of rest and renewal and has found this positively impacts her mental, emotional, and spiritual health.

She encourages others who are considering a career in teaching to understand the “why” behind their choice. “The work is extremely challenging and on the days when it seems much easier to quit, I know my reason which drives the work I do,” she explained. She also recommends focusing on long-term goals for students rather than daily progress. “Our goals for students cover so much more than academic pursuits - even though those are super important! Teaching students to be great listeners, compassionate human beings, and dedicated individuals should be considered as we work each day, too.”

"When Audrey talks about special education or teaching methods, her passion for the kids and for the profession is so evident,” shared her mother, Ann. “I hope to someday volunteer in her classroom to see her in action as my mom did when I was still teaching. It's definitely exciting to see how she's found her specialty and how it combines my career and her Grandmother's!  We're so proud of her and we're confident that she'll be a blessing to many, many young people!"

Audrey is currently serving as a long-term special education substitute at Three Rivers Middle School.

She is excited to "carry the torch,"so to speak, of the women in her family. “I’m so grateful to live following the legacy of these women who have cared for others so well,” shared Audrey. We are certain she will make them proud!