Aislyn Tkacs: Dean’s Award

Aislyn Tkacs is the 2024 recipient of the Dean’s Award from the University of Maine College of Education and Human Development. The award is intended to honor a student who has overcome significant challenges along the path to graduation, and is only given in years when there’s a nominee who meets these criteria.

A child development and family relations major with a concentration in early childhood education, Tkacs began her student teaching as a long-term substitute in a first grade classroom.

“Even though there were some sleepless nights, I am so thankful for my time there,” she says.” This placement provided me with countless opportunities to grow and develop within the field.”

Unfortunately, she was involved in a head-on car crash that resulted in a broken wrist and a totaled car, and ultimately led her to give up the long-term substitute position and threatened to derail her student teaching experience altogether.

“Despite my best efforts, I found myself no longer able to meet the needs of my students,” Tkacs says.

Thanks to the support of the College of Education and Human Development’s Advising Center and student support staff, she’s been able to stay on track to complete her degree and graduate this spring.

“I am more than grateful to the faculty and staff in the College of Education and Human Development, as well as my placement school for trusting me to take on the unique opportunity of being a long-term sub as part of my student teaching,” she says.

Read more below.

Hometown: Bangor, Maine

High School: Bangor High School

What difference has UMaine made in your life and in helping you reach your goals?

When I got into my accident, I worried about my ability to manage my responsibilities associated with student teaching. However, my instructors and the entire staff of the College of Education and Human Development Advising Center were nothing but supportive and understanding, which absolutely made the difference in helping me reach my goals! The trajectory of my recovery, both mentally and physically, was positively impacted because of the supportive response I received from the UMaine staff.

Have you had an experience at UMaine that has changed or shaped the way you see the world?

This past summer I enrolled in KPE 450/550: Bringing the Classroom Outdoors. This class changed the way that I view education and the potential that the outdoors can have in enhancing student learning. I was able to meet a lot of wonderful people who shared the same enthusiasm for outdoor learning as I did, as well as be exposed to knowledge and experiences that have improved my philosophy as a future educator.

Have you worked closely with a professor or mentor who made your UMaine experience better?

Without a doubt, Doreen Page has been a pillar for me throughout my student teaching experience. She went far beyond the responsibilities of her role as an instructor, being somebody who I could consistently rely on for guidance, support and reassurance. I cannot begin to explain my gratitude for Doreen. I know my experience at UMaine has been exponentially better due to the care and dedication she showed for my well-being and growth as a future educator.

What advice do you have for incoming students to help them get off to the best start academically?

My best advice for incoming students is to take time to find a solid organizational method that works for you and STICK TO IT! For most of my life, I have struggled to stay on top of my assignments, remember plans and just feel like I am in control in my life. The biggest game-changer for me was finally sitting down and dedicating time to creating a schedule/system that worked for me. My schedule outlines when my classes are, when I work, plans I have and what days I have assignments due throughout the week. Creating a place to put all of these things together really helped me to stay on top of all of my responsibilities and took a large mental load off of myself.

Why UMaine?

I originally came to UMaine because of the proximity to home and for my previous major. But almost every (if not every) professor I have had since switching to early childhood education have shown true enthusiasm for the profession. Not only that, but they are very understanding and cooperative when unexpected things in life occur. Having professors who are dedicated and enthusiastic makes me look forward to coming to class!

Special thanks:

Thank you to all faculty in the College of Education and Human Development. I am truly grateful for the compassion that was shown to me throughout my academic career, especially the past few months. There are too many people to name individually, but I am so appreciative of everyone who went above and beyond to support me. This support made a huge impact in my success this semester.

Favorite UMaine memory:

My favorite UMaine memory has to be spending time in the Bear’s Den. I can’t count how many hours I spent hanging out with my friends and studying there! The burrito bowls single-handedly fueled my hours long study sessions.