Teaching young children to love and appreciate any subject is much easier when they know they are loved and valued by their teacher. For Heather Shainline '12, an AmeriCorps Volunteer in Service to America (VISTA), loving the children she works with comes as second nature.
Today she is one of 16 VISTAs working through the Pennsylvania Campus Compact. This specific program aids college campuses that are passionate about improving at-risk K-12 student success, increasing college access for at-risk high school students and extending food access for low-income families. The Compact’s overall goal is to help bring these individuals and their families out of poverty.
As part of her VISTA commitment, Shainline is working in collaboration with Alvernia’s Holleran Center for Community Engagement to grow the Alvernia READS program— a natural fit for her love of teaching. In doing so, she is playing a role to make a difference in a nation where more than half of kids below the poverty line are not read to daily.
Without a solid basis for reading and a developed love of reading, children from low- income families are showing a more than 40-point gap on reading comprehension tests between themselves and children from high- income families.
“Heather is a remarkably compassionate and capable young woman with a passion for working with children and is a perfect fit for the Alvernia READS program,” said Jay Worrall, director of the Holleran Center. “She is the latest of many outstanding VISTA workers who have made an impact at the Holleran Center.”
Shainline is using her experience as a VISTA to work with the underprivileged and at-risk youth she wants to teach in the future. “I want to be out there. I want to have a classroom...my hopes and my dreams are to teach,” she said.
Her affinity for education is nothing new. In fact, it began when she was a youngster. As far back as preschool, she had always wanted to teach. Attending a small, Catholic high school set her up perfectly to fall in love with Alvernia years later. “At a university like Alvernia, where community service is well understood and appreciated, and the campus community well loved, and well developed, I fit right in,” said Shainline.
As an education major, she had the opportunity to student teach during her last semester. “I loved being where I was. I loved teaching all the kids. I loved the atmosphere. I loved telling people what I was doing,” she said.
Last May, Shainline received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education with the intent to teach as soon as possible, but fate led her first to a year in the national AmeriCorps VISTA program – and the opportunity to put her passion in action.
By: Andrew Kaucher — sophomore English major at Alvernia.