Dr. Beulah Baker recently caught up with several Taylor English alum from recent years. It’s inspiring to see the specific ways in which our graduates are pursuing their callings and making a difference in the world.
Always a small-town kid, Elizabeth Tatum moved to Chicago after graduating from Taylor University in January of 2008. For three years she worked at a non-profit national healthcare association, where she was called upon to dabble in writing, project management, grant-making, and operations. Outside of work, she was active in a local Mennonite congregation, Reba Place Church, and volunteered with a few Evanston-based charitable organizations.
In the fall of 2012 she moved to Philadelphia to study public administration at the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania. There, she hopes to build on her experience in the non-profit sector, focus her energies on social policy issues, and discover the charms of her new city.
Elizabeth enjoys reading, discussing politics, spending time with friends, singing, recounting interesting stories from NPR, and cultivating a mild-to-moderate addiction to Mad Men. Though in her roles she has rarely been called upon for literary analysis, her English degree has been perceived as a definite asset in the working world. And she still reads Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and James for fun.
Elizabeth graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in English Education.
Lauren Hartshorn began teaching in Washington DC Public Schools shortly after graduating from Taylor in 2008. Lauren describes the situation this way:
My school was historically under-performing and we were in stages of “reconstruction” when I entered in 2008. My students were primarily low-income, living in a rough part of the city. There were many obstacles, both socially and academically. We battled behavioral issues to battle as well as other urban school issues such as absentee parents, a lack of support from home, and problems that arose from drug use, sexual activity, and bullying. In 2011, I began the most difficult year of my career. We had a new principal and the school was worse than ever before. For the first time, I didn’t feel up to the challenge of working in that school.
I looked for a new job, and was offered a mid-year position at a Catholic school in College Park, MD, home of the University of Maryland. After much thought and prayer, I accepted the position. Leaving my students was difficult, but I was intensely aware that this was the right move for me. It felt as though God had dropped this job offer in my lap, and I wasn’t about to refuse.
I’ve been working at Holy Redeemer since January of 2012. I teach all the middle school grades, 6–8, because the school is so small. I’ve been very busy but very happy in the new position. The kids are bright, doing work at two or even three grade levels above their actual grade. I’ve loved being able to read classic novels and have lively discussions. My 7th grade students read Fahrenheit 451 and The Crucible this year; my 8th grade students read To Kill a Mockingbird and Macbeth. To see them make connections, question social norms and behaviors, and analyze characters makes me so proud. I feel confident that they will grow up to be competent, analytical thinkers, which is my goal for each of my students.
I can’t say that I’ve had an easy four years since graduating from Taylor; teaching is a daily challenge that takes a lot of personal time and energy for little financial reward. Yet I wouldn’t want my years to have been spent any differently. My experiences in the classroom and in the city have made me stronger, better at what I do, and more reliant on God to help me through sometimes impossible-seeming situations.
Thank you so much to Elizabeth and Lauren for sharing your stories! We’re proud of, and thankful for, the wonderful work you’re doing.