When Liam Edwards first registered for classes at the Community College of Vermont, he encountered a lot of skepticism. At seventeen, he had dropped out of high school to attend college. “I got negative feedback from friends,” he says. “They didn’t think I could make it. My family didn’t believe I could make it either.”
Liam’s first day at CCV seemed to confirm everyone’s fears. “I didn’t even show up to the right class,” he recalls, chuckling. “I sat in the wrong classroom for three hours.”
There was also the financial burden. Liam’s parents couldn’t pay for his education so he worked at Rutland Mental Health, doing outreach work with adults with chronic mental health problems. He became a substitute teacher at Head Start. In the summer, he toiled long hours as a farmhand. In between, he worked in production at music festivals.
Despite the bumpy beginning and the heavy workload, Liam thrived. He left classes wanting to engage with classmates about the ideas they were learning and discussing. He earned an associate’s degree in early childhood education from CCV before transferring to Castleton, a transition he describes as “seamless.”
Today, the young man who was told he wouldn’t succeed in college has a 3.26 GPA despite a plethora of outside commitments. Until Liam began student teaching this semester, he continued his work with Rutland Mental Health and Head Start in addition to working part-time at the Calvin Coolidge Library’s circulation desk. He has also been an active member of the university’s Greenhouse and Gardens Club. In January, he discussed his experiences as a transfer student on a panel for new transfer students.
Faculty and staff praise his appetite for learning and his determination. “Liam is truly committed to learning. He eagerly searches for new knowledge and he passionately engages with scholarly work,” says Leigh-Ann Brown, Assistant Professor of Education. Stephanie Traverse, Access Services Librarian, raves about his “incredible work ethic.”
Liam believes Castleton’s Academic Support Center is partially responsible for his success. He has met with Math Specialist Deborah Jackson and Writing Specialist Doe Dahm during his time at Castleton. “It’s reassuring to believe that there are people at Castleton who will help,” he says. “And it’s been useful to get help with my writing, especially synthesizing and sequencing. The Academic Support Center has helped me achieve one of my goals, which is to keep my GPA above a 3.00.”
A multidisciplinary studies major, Liam hopes to pursue a career in elementary education after graduating in December. He also plans to attend graduate school. This semester, he is student teaching. He eagerly creates lesson plans for the 4-6th graders in his classroom, and despite his busy schedule, finds time to mentor fellow student teachers, sharing ideas and strategies with them.
Monica McEnerney, chair of Castleton’s education department, is supervising Liam in his student teaching role. She is impressed by his interactions with students and peers.
“It was evident from the first day that Liam had built strong connections with students and was a responsible and kind colleague,” she says. “He knows that, even when times get tough, he must be a positive presence for his students. Liam is an excellent elementary educator.”
McEnerney believes Liam’s intellectual curiosity will enrich his work as an educator. “Liam has a broad sense of the world, has a poetic disposition, and cares deeply about his community,” she says.
Ann Slonaker, Associate Professor of Education, agrees wholeheartedly. “Liam will be a good role model for all his students,” she adds.
In the meantime, Liam hopes other students will take full advantage of the opportunities to learn and grow during their time at college. “You can’t just read what’s given to you,” he says thoughtfully. “Your professors are all hard workers, and they haven’t stopped learning. Read outside your interests.”
– Dorothy A. Dahm