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Student Spotlight: Leticia Ingram

To say that ACU alumna Leticia Ingram is a passionate advocate for education is the understatement of the year. In fact, this 2016 Colorado Teacher of the Year is one of just two teachers participating in The Aspen Institute National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development. The prestigious panel includes three governors, 28 researchers, Special Olympics chairman Timothy Shriver, and a retired general. When she’s not traveling to Washington, D.C. or visiting schools across the country on behalf of the think tank, Leticia’s working on her Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership at ACU Online.

Did we mention Leticia teaches full-time at Colorado’s Basalt High School, has four children between the ages of 20 and 24, and shares her life with husband, Ray? Or that she was the recipient of ACU’s 2017 Grover C. Morlan Medal award for her contributions to the field of education?

Leticia has never been short on motivation. Her own education began at Texas A&M University, but she moved to ACU’s campus where she earned a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education with a minor in math. She followed that up with a Master of Science in Religion and Cross-cultural Communication from ACU and six-and-a-half years as a missionary in the Philippines. Upon returning to Colorado, Leticia ended up getting another Master’s in English As A Second Language from Adams State University when she started teaching in the public schools.

Connecting the Dots in God’s Plan for Her Life

Leticia is certain her move from missionary and church work into the classroom was divinely guided. She shares, “I feel so much stronger now that my mission field is here with these kids, because you hear about all the suicide and kids on antidepressants and shootings, and there’s so much going on in our world today. I think, ‘Wow. This is where I’m supposed to be. God put me in this classroom.’”

Although Basalt High School is only about 20 minutes from Aspen, “The demographics are very different. Sixty percent of our student body’s first language is not English. A little over 50% are on free and reduced lunch. We have a large population of kids from El Salvador, which is one of the top violent countries in the world because of gangs and drugs. They come with a lot of social and emotional needs.”

Leticia teaches two English as a second language classes in the morning. “I work with the newcomers. In fact, this year, all my newcomers are from El Salvador,” she explains. In the afternoon, she teaches two classes of biology, and a class of film as literature. “Pretty diverse subjects, but it’s really fun,” Leticia enthuses.

How was she nominated for the Teacher of the Year award? “My English As A Second Language class wrote letters to the principal, and the principal forwarded them to the Department of Education,” Leticia explains. “You go to interviews, and I told my students’ stories, because so many of them have come over here looking for success and they believe that education is the key to success.”

Being chosen 2016 Colorado Teacher of the Year was very exciting for Leticia, but also very humbling. She gives her students all the honor. “All I did was tell their stories. I think that’s what got so much attention, because my students’ stories are inspiring.” The award has allowed Leticia to speak and touch lives all over the world. “I feel so blessed to be put in this position now. I see how God has used me,” she reflects.

Choosing ACU Online for Her Ed.D. Degree

The Teacher of the Year award earned Leticia a full scholarship to Walden University’s online Doctor of Education program, so she began there. “I was into it about a year, and I actually had gone for the Morlan Award at ACU. I didn’t even know that ACU had a doctoral program. I started looking into it a little bit more.”

Leticia found much about ACU’s program very appealing, especially the conflict resolution track. ACU offered to match her scholarships, and when she heard, “We’d love for you to come back and finish at ACU — come back home,” Leticia did just that. “I just loved the relationship part of it, and so I decided to switch. I even lost some credit hours because I switched, but I really believe in relationships in education. I’m always telling people that’s the key to being a successful teacher: If you gain the trust and develop the relationship with your students, they blossom. I felt like that’s what ACU would do for me.”

Professors who reached out during last summer’s Colorado wildfires, professors who call students in the first week just to say “Hi,” and professors who are always available when things get tough asking: “What do you need? We can figure this out. Don’t worry,” are all cited by Leticia as unique benefits of ACU Online. She also values the rigorous program of study and the deep connection she shares with her cohort.

Where Does She Go Next?

Leticia knows her doctorate will open more doors for her, but she’s not really focused on the future. She’s all about making her contributions right now. While she’d love to teach college classes at some point, Leticia finds great value in challenging herself with the doctoral program while also serving as a role model for her Colorado high school students.

“I’m really into global education, and I took 30 kids to Costa Rica last year. I’m taking kids to Africa and to Cambodia. I’m always really pushing respect for each other and each other’s cultures, and learning from each other — living not out of fear, but out of love. I know that sounds kind of cliché, but I really believe it.”

Leticia Ingram sums up her teaching philosophy: “Listening to each other’s stories is a big thing. I can teach them all the content in the world, but what people really need to know is someone cares about them, and that’s when they’ll blossom and they’ll work even harder. They’ll succeed academically if their foundations of social and emotional needs are met. Everybody seeks that. There’s not one person that doesn’t want to be loved.”

Do you share Leticia’s passion for education? Learn more about ACU’s online Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership. Or, speak to a Graduate Advisor at 855-219-7300.

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