Tina Shields: AU-spicious at 50
Transforming Lives: Moving Beyond is a testimonial series written by Athabasca University (AU) students and alumni who want to acknowledge how AU has helped shape their lives.
It’s a space for those who want to thank the people who have helped to support and transform their AU experience to achieve their greatest successes; all while looking forward to their future educational and personal potential.
Their story is worth shouting from the rooftops! Have an inspiring story of your own to share? Email us! We’d love to hear it.
The significance of 50!
AU is turning 50! How fitting to my own journey as I am also approaching 50, but still have a couple more years. My journey began with a vision of accomplishing a later in life goal by the time I turn 50. I am a mother of two nearly-adult children. As my children approached their late-teens, I felt a yearning to be around children again, so I began a search to work in an educational setting where children are the focus of unlocking potential. I started working as an educational assistant and found a love for being a positive role model through friendships and building effective relationships with and among students.
Achieving her academic vision without disrupting her career
After two years of working as an educational assistant supporting children with exceptionalities, I felt a passion to be more and found my own potential. This is where I discovered Athabasca University (AU).
I decided, or fate decided, that I was to be a teacher with a passion to inspire children and peers. The only problem was that I felt I may be too old to go back to school since I was approaching my mid-forties. Additionally, the idea of going back to school for four or five years to become a teacher would mean that I would probably have to leave the elementary school environment and miss out on wonderful moments where children create space for change.
So I started online searching for alternative ways to achieve a vision without disrupting too much of an already enjoyable career. A few phone calls to very helpful staff members at AU set me on a new course. Realizing I could continue to work full time and go back to school on my own terms in the evenings, I signed up as a student with AU.
“Realizing I could continue to work full time and go back to school on my own terms in the evenings, I signed up as a student with AU. ”
Working towards her academic vision
My goal was to complete my education at AU and transfer to a two year program at a local university. Since I was 44 years old, I allotted myself six years to reach my new dream, and thus, I would be a teacher by the time I turned 50. With a strong commitment to education and unlocking potential, I completed the three year undergraduate degree at AU and currently I have two months left in my education degree. Thanks to AU, I successfully earned my Bachelor of General Studies, so that I could continue on to an education degree.
Being a student at AU allowed me to do my learning on my time. I would work during the day and come home to work on my courses in the evenings. There were frustrations and life changes along the journey, but every phone call I made to AU for academic and emotional support gave me hope and encouragement towards growth. The staff at AU have been exceptional from phone calls to academic advising, phone calls with professors, and even the support of staff during one of the highlights of attending graduation ceremonies in Athabasca.
Teaching career at 47!
My biggest accomplishment during this journey is the inspiration I have emitted to my children, my family, and friends. My children often tell me how proud they are of me because of my dedication to children and bettering myself to be even more effective in children’s lives. My husband of 20 years looks at me with pride and admiration at how I have committed myself to becoming a better person. My friends will leave notes of encouragement, messages of adoration, and questions for advice on how they can follow what I have modelled, which is a huge compliment!
I will actually be qualified to begin my teaching career at 47 years old and I owe a lot of my journey to the flexibility that AU has provided. Additionally, I became the first in my generation to earn a degree, and while my mother is no longer with us, my father, sisters, husband, children, friends, and people I have met along the way have been inspired while encouraging my journey by positively reinforcing my decision to go back to school after a 27 year break from formal education. I am where I belong and I appreciate the AU experience.