Augusta University is celebrating its spring graduates this week.
Spring Commencement ceremonies for Augusta University will be Thursday, May 13, at Lady A Pavilion, 7016 Evans Town Center Park. There will be a morning and an afternoon ceremony to accommodate participants and guests, while also following appropriate COVID-19 precautions.
Ever since Cassandra Govea was a little girl growing up in Marietta, Georgia, she always dreamed of becoming a teacher. This week, 21-year-old Govea will achieve that goal by graduating with a bachelor’s degree in middle grades education with a concentration in mathematics and social studies from the College of Education at Augusta University.
“As I’ve grown, I’ve contemplated teaching different subjects and grades, including English language arts and high school Spanish, but fell in love with the subject of math in my first semester at Augusta University,” Govea said. “I was surrounded by wonderful teachers growing up who always saw the best in me and showed that they cared. As a result, I like to serve others and I want to be able to give back to my community through the service of teaching.”
As a high school student, there was one particular teacher who truly inspired her to go into education, Govea said
“I was fortunate to grow up in a community where my teachers treated me like one of their own,” she said. “In high school, I was in the JROTC program all four years and I had Lt. Col. James T. Wilson as one of my instructors. Every day, he began class by asking us about our lives. He showed interest and he cared for us. He inspired me to be a teacher because he always kept up with us as individuals and as students.”
Wilson went far above and beyond what his position at the high school in Marietta required, Govea said.
“He shared his background with us as someone who was not as privileged as others, but he grew up to be a successful individual who now has served his country and continues to serve as an educator,” she said. “In my junior year of high school, he made me consider what my plans were after graduation and at that point I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I was considering enlisting into the military or being a nurse, but then I remembered how I had always wanted to be a teacher growing up.”
Wilson talked through her options and she began realizing that studying education at Augusta University was the correct path for her, Govea said.
“As a first-generation student, I didn’t have any family members to rely on for experienced help on things such as applying for college or filling out my FAFSA,” Govea said, referring to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. “Lt. Col. Wilson was there for me as someone who has been in my shoes before and assisted me along the way. His teaching style and his passion for the profession continue to inspire me every day to be an open-minded and caring teacher in all ways.”
Not long into her college career at Augusta University, Govea said she knew teaching was the best career choice for her.
“What I love the most about teaching is the unique group of students I work with every year,” she said. “As an education student at Augusta University, I have had the privilege of working with different groups of students with such diverse backgrounds. Growing up, my mom would always tell me that everybody was different and that we never judge a book by its cover. I’ve come to learn that all students come from different walks of life.”
But finding that common connection among students is what motivates her as a new teacher, Govea said.
“I love creating an environment where all of my students feel safe and welcomed,” she said. “I always used to hide my differences because I thought of them as negative characteristics of myself. As a teacher, I don’t want any of my students to feel like they need to hide their differences or unique characteristics.
“I want to encourage my students to embrace their differences, whether it’s their racial background or learning style.”
Those differences are what make every class special and unique, Govea said.
“Differentiation is a concept that I will constantly be improving in, but I love being able to plan lessons that will encourage all of my students to be active in class,” she said. “I love to see my students progress in academics and as young adolescents.”
Govea said she wouldn’t have been able to achieve her goals without the support from the College of Education at Augusta University.
“During my sophomore year, I had to complete field placement hours and I was assigned Riverside Middle as my field placement,” she said. “During this assignment, my responsibility was to observe, listen and learn from my mentor teacher. My teacher was Mrs. Melissa Jenkinson. She stated that she knew I didn’t have to teach, but she wanted me to try. She wanted me to teach one lesson so that I knew that this was exactly what I wanted to do.”
It was a turning point in her college career, Govea said.
“I think I’ll probably remember that moment for a really long time,” she said. “I taught a lesson on slope in mathematics and Mrs. Jenkinson stated, that for my first time teaching, she thought I did a great job.”
She also received positive feedback from students that day.
“In that one class lesson, I witnessed a student having a ‘light bulb moment’ for the first time. It was such a rewarding feeling knowing I was in the position as the teacher,” Govea said. “That was the moment I knew that I wanted to continue my path of becoming a teacher.”
After graduation, Govea is planning to return to her hometown and pursue a career as a math teacher in the Cobb County School District. Her family could not be more thrilled about her future plans.
“I honestly don’t know who is more excited for me to earn my degree between my family and my friends,” Govea said, smiling. “I am proud to say that I will be graduating this May as a first-generation college student. My family has constantly stayed on my mind through my college career because, as I complete my degree, I hope to encourage and inspire others in my family, along with my students.
“I will be the first, but I know I will not be the last in my family to graduate with a degree in higher education.”
Dr. Elizabeth Huggins was one professor, in particular, who provided Govea guidance along the way.
“I started my college experience as a Jaguar Jumpstart student in the summer of 2017. Dr. Huggins was the coordinator and was my professor for INQR 1000,” a one-credit hour course designed to engage students in the discovery, exploration and analysis of ideas, Govea said. “She was a professor of mine for about a year altogether, but, even as a senior, she has continued to check up on me. She is definitely someone I look up to and hope I can share some attributes with in my future career.”
But without the tremendous support of her parents during her college career, Govea admits she’s not sure if she would be walking across the stage and receiving her diploma this week.
“Throughout my college years, my parents have continuously stated that they support me with every decision I make,” Govea said. “I don’t think my parents are surprised that I chose to earn a degree in education solely because it has been something that I have spoken about probably since I was in the eighth grade … Teaching is my passion. I could talk about it for hours because something new happens every day that makes me love it even more.”
Govea said she can’t wait for her family to see her receive her diploma from Augusta University.
“My parents probably lost count of the number of times I would call feeling discouraged,” Govea said, laughing. “There were times where I didn’t think I could make it. They pushed me along, every step of the way. My mom would always encourage me by talking about my diploma.
“For instance, she’d say, ‘Your diploma is already made. They’re just writing your name on it.’ Or, the most recent time, she said, ‘Your degree is waiting for you, you just have to walk the stage.’ And, now, it’s really happening.”