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Gross discovers passion for education at Monmouth

Barry McNamara
MONMOUTH, Ill. – For Josh Gross ’20 of La Moille, Ill., Monmouth College helped him find his calling.

“I came to Monmouth as a pretty shy kid, but my professors really pushed me to interact, to share ideas, to make connections,” said Gross, who will be an elementary school physical education teacher in the Illinois cities of Bloomington and Normal.

Gross said he found his vocation at Monmouth after arriving as a freshman with a few ideas.

“I knew I wanted to do something that helped people,” said Gross, whose sister, Chelsea Gross, is a 2013 Monmouth graduate. “Some of the things I was thinking about were physical therapy, athletic training and even becoming a police officer. I finally decided that what I wanted to do was to make an impact on kids’ lives, so that morphed into me taking a lot of classes in educational studies, and I’m very happy with my decision.”

In addition to the course work in his major, Gross was strongly influenced by his work in the field.

“My student-teacher experience was really cool,” he said. “It was (at Galesburg’s Steele Elementary School) with Katy (Vaccarello) Flatt, who’s a (2009) Monmouth grad. Working with her in that diverse setting really helped make me the teacher I am today.”

Educational studies professor Michelle Holschuh Simmons had Gross in four classes during his junior and senior years.

“Josh had already earned a reputation in our department for being an excellent addition to any class,” she said. “My impressions were confirmed with every interaction I have had with Josh for the last two years. In person and in writing, Josh consistently communicates professionally and comports himself with confidence.”

Lessons from track

Like Vaccarello before him, Gross competed on the Fighting Scots’ track team. Having away meets almost every weekend of the spring semester required good time-management skills, and Gross was up to the challenge.

“Josh impresses everyone he encounters with his organization, his work ethic and his dedication to tasks,” said Simmons. “His academic work is always meticulously completed and on time, and he has had perfect attendance in all of the classes he has had with me. As a track athlete, he has a full schedule with practices and meets, but he has been able to manage the many pulls on his time exceedingly well.”

Gross said his time on the track team helped him in a number of ways.

“Coach (Roger) Haynes was phenomenal,” he said. “The entire track team was a big family, and it helped me make a lot of friends. It’s really made me the man I am today.”

A different kind of spring

Of course, like the rest of Monmouth’s spring sports athletes, Gross no longer competes because of the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s just one of several things that the sprinter is missing during these last few weeks of his Monmouth experience, including the traditional commencement ceremony.

“It’s kind of sad that we won’t be walking across the stage (in May) in our cap and gown,” he said. “It just doesn’t feel real quite yet that we won’t be doing that.”

Another thing Gross misses is the opportunity to simply chill in his dorm and talk to his roommate.

“We would just talk and share ideas about anything,” he said. “Conversations like that have been a really great part of my Monmouth experience – to share ideas and not be judged and to be respectful of others’ opinions.”

That happened in the classroom, as well.

“I really learned to think about things in a different way,” said Gross. “I think that’s what I’m going to miss most about my time at Monmouth – the connections I made with professors. Monmouth just really felt like home.”