Growing into education

Secondary education major Hannah Gates is returning to the classroom to become the educator she wished she could have had.

Nov. 27, 2023
Contact: Deidra Ashley,
Photo courtesy Emily Kebert

Senior Hannah Gates didn’t grow up loving school. But the secondary education major with an emphasis in English language and arts is determined to create an environment where all her students can succeed and find their purpose. After touring the University of Missouri as a high schooler, Gates said she immediately found her academic home.

Read on for a Q&A with Gates about her Mizzou experience.

Why did you choose Mizzou?

When I came to tour Mizzou, I expected it to be in the middle of nowhere and for everyone to be wearing cowboy boots and hats on some campus in the middle of a field. I was shocked when I got to campus and saw how different it was from my expectations.

I instantly felt welcomed and at home, even though I wasn’t even a student yet. I instantly knew there was nowhere else I wanted to be and nowhere else that could beat Mizzou. The possibilities and opportunities presented to me were endless — and I still believe that. This school and the campus community have an endless number of ways to get involved, experiences to be had, memories that will last a lifetime and amazing people everywhere you go.

Was there a defining moment in choosing your major?

When I was in high school, I took a trip to Kenya. One day, my dad was working in his office and told my brothers and I we could join his co-worker on a day trip to one of the local schools in a village outside of Nairobi. The teacher had us to introduce ourselves and asked us if we wanted to contribute to the lesson that was going on. Both of my younger brothers passed on the opportunity, but I decided to give it a try. The children all were raising their hands to introduce themselves, chime in on answers and even teaching me bits of Swahili. They were full of curiosity and were eager to learn, which really surprised me. Usually here in the U.S., we aren’t super excited to learn and are shy to welcome visitors, but this was completely different. I saw how much the students valued education and how they wanted to learn the most they could in that short class period. It was at that moment I realized I wanted to be an English teacher.

Why do you approach education in the way that you do?

I didn’t really like school growing up, and I struggled a lot. Most of my teachers tried to support me the best they could, but it can be difficult as an educator when you have too many students, or you aren’t supplied with the right toolkit. I think if I had a teacher who really took the time to try and understand me or try different strategies out, I would have liked school more. That’s one of the reasons I approach education the way I do. I truly believe that with patience, willingness, kindness, empathy and understanding, every student has the ability to exceed their potential if they’re presented with opportunity and a fair chance.

How did you get involved at Mizzou?

During my freshman year, I joined the Dorsey Leadership Academy which has taught me a lot about how important diversity is in education. I am also a part of the National Alliance of Black School Educators, which has been a great group to make new friends and talk through how we can work to diversify education. I’m also a member of Gamma Phi Beta, which has given me some of my best friends.

On the academic side, I recently began the honors program in the College of Education and Human Development, which has given me the opportunity to join an undergraduate research team with Dr. Lisa Dorner. My project is focused on how international students experience belonging and inclusion on our university’s campus. Previously, I did undergraduate research alongside Dr. Terrell Morton on a project that worked on diversifying undergraduate level biology courses. I got to build an entire biology course which consisted of lesson plans, student assessment tools and instructor’s guides. Last year, I worked for Mizzou’s Center for Academic Success and Excellence (CASE) office where I conducted interviews with students and families to write profile stories and produced podcasts for CASE’s podcast series.

Who has been the biggest influence on you at Mizzou?

My biggest influence at Mizzou has to be Ana Galicia. She is the Assistant Director for the Office of Clinical Experiences and Partnerships for the College of Education and Human Development … but I like to think of her as my school mom. I met her through Dorsey, where she serves as my mentor. Ana is someone I know I can go to for anything. She has set such a great example for me and my future in education and is definitely my biggest role model on campus. If it weren’t for Ana, I don’t even know where I would be in the education world. She’s introduced to me so many opportunities for growth and involvement, assured me and supported my studies and set me straight whenever I’ve felt stuck, doubtful or unsure. She’s a kind and supportive person, and a positive light for everyone around her.

Story written by Audrey Brown

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