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La Prad enjoys the mentoring and creativity that teaching provides

Barry McNamara
09/14/2017

MONMOUTH, Ill. – Tammy La Prad appreciates being able to support Monmouth College students in a way that was lacking at her own undergraduate university.

“At a big school I could hide, academically,” said La Prad, who started a tenure-track position in the educational studies department this year. “I remember my math class was in a huge auditorium three days a week, and even when we broke up for lab work, there were still 35 students in my lab. I did fine, but I didn’t take advantage of all the university had to offer. I didn’t do enough, and the faculty didn’t push me. At 18 or 19 years old, it would’ve been good for someone to say to me, ‘You can do better. Here’s how you can improve.’

“I see that mindset here at Monmouth. Faculty here are very good about thinking, ‘How can we help you get to the next level?’”

At Monmouth, those faculty-student relationships are part of the institution’s very fabric.

“I love this small, liberal arts environment,” she said. “I would’ve done much better in an environment like this. I like that you can build relationships with the students and see them grow. I also like the holistic advising. My experience was, you go to your adviser to see what courses you need to take, and that’s about it. There was no discussion about goals, or where I see myself as a person. I enjoy the opportunity to work through that with students. It’s very interesting to me to do that and learn all the other disciplines the student is interested in.”

La Prad holds a bachelor’s degree in telecommunications from Michigan State University and a master of education degree in social foundations from the University of Virginia.

La Prad began her Monmouth career as a visiting assistant professor during the 2016-17 academic year, after teaching at Western Illinois University in Macomb. She and her husband, Jim, will soon have a college student of their own in their household, as their eldest child is a senior in Macomb. Their other three children are triplets who are in their freshman year of high school.

“The opportunities I’ve been given in just the short amount of time I’ve been at Monmouth have been amazing,” she said. “I put in a proposal to take students off campus (during Christmas break). We went to a Navajo reservation where our students could see what it’s like to teach children in a different cultural environment than their own. I was able to do that after just being here one semester, and then I had a SOFIA project this year (with department colleague Sherry Bair). Our returning student was an education major, but the freshmen were from different disciplines. Opportunities like that really feed me and help me grow, as well as the students.”

La Prad said she caught the teaching bug while living in Virginia, where her husband was stationed with the Marine Corps. While teaching Sunday school to third graders, she realized she “loved the curiosity of the students.”

“They’d been in school all day, and they still wanted to learn,” she said. “That experience just spoke to me in a way that I decided that teaching was something I was going to pursue.”

She quickly learned that she could express herself through teaching.

“Teaching is a highly creative profession,” said La Prad, who taught elementary school for several years. “Yes, there are licenses we need to get and testing we need to provide ... everything we need to check a box on. But the ability to be creative is a joy to me. Even if every teacher has to teach the same worksheet, YOU get to teach the worksheet. You get to do it in your own style.”

Teachers not only get to create within themselves, but they can play an important role in the creation of the type of person their students turn out to be.

“I see teaching as a political act,” said La Prad. “Teachers have an opportunity to bring about change. They can help students become learners and help students grow. I find that very exciting – how people who work with children can make a difference in every way that makes us human.”