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Getting a head start on career options with Pathways

Getting a head start on career options with Pathways

2023 Graduate Ashley Alanis Palacio is chasing her dreams of being a teacher

Ashley’s passion for kids came pretty naturally. As the oldest of six children, she has had lots of opportunities to care for, encourage and teach kids throughout her life. Thanks to the Pathways model at Burnsville High School (BHS), Ashley is building on that experience to get a head start on her career and is growing the tools she needs to start inspiring young learners. 

ashley palacio working with preschool students

As a lifelong resident of District 191, Ashley has had a variety of great teachers over the years who encouraged her through the English Learner (EL) program and through activities and core classes. In middle school, she was taught by Mr. Sean Simmons, which was one of the first times she had a person of color as a teacher. She was so inspired by this experience that she entered high school knowing she wanted to start taking classes in education as soon as possible so she could someday give that same kind of inspiration to others. 

“I took a child psychology class in ninth grade that started it all for me,” said Ashley. “My teachers really supported me and told me to explore more so I ended up taking Preschool Lab my junior year and learned so much. I knew that this is what I wanted to do and was encouraged to keep pursuing it by my teachers.”

While she took classes like cooking mostly to learn new skills or for fun, she stayed committed to build the foundation to someday become a teacher. During Preschool Lab, Ashley worked with other BHS students to create lessons for real preschool students including science projects and outdoor activities. The classes take place within BHS and the high school students teach and ultimately write a final paper about the experience of seeing the young learners grow and learn. 

“I noticed that kids really need a routine to learn best, so we always started with a morning song and then into some lessons,” said Ashley. “I was able to create some really strong bonds with kids in that class and it was amazing. The fact that I can make a child excited to come to school is so rewarding.”

She got involved with a variety of activities during her time at BHS including dance, joining the LatinX club to connect with other students, and later joining the Future Teachers of America Club. During a recent field trip to a college with the club, she heard all about the immense need for teachers of color in the field, which further encouraged her on her path and increased her passion for representation in the classroom. 

As she continued to take classes like Introduction to Education and Multicultural Education, she got more experience in the classroom through student teaching. A memorable moment came when she was student teaching at Sky Oaks Elementary and spoke Spanish to a group of students, who were so thrilled to be able to communicate in Spanish with a teacher. 

“I am so grateful that I got that opportunity as a high school student,” said Ashley. “I was in the EL program in elementary school and it is so powerful to see what students are doing and watch kids be so excited about learning. I haven’t had many teachers of color and that does push me to be that person that kids look up to and feel like they are represented by teachers.”

With a passion for young learners, Ashley was interested in becoming a kindergarten teacher but through the student teaching experience she learned that she could communicate and connect even better with third graders. Her experience at BHS not only gave her a head start on college plans to attend Concordia University in the fall to pursue a major in Elementary Education, but it also allowed her to qualify for her current job at a local daycare provider as a Teacher’s Aide for infant, toddler and preschool classes. 

“Through the Pathways program, it’s almost like I was given an internship opportunity since I got the required experience to be able to qualify for my job,” said Ashley. “I have such a passion for kids and I find the job to be so rewarding. I originally didn’t plan to become a teacher, but through the classes I have taken I learned how powerful the job of an educator truly is.”