Seth Wyatt, an elementary education and special education major, was homeschooled until eighth grade. After attending public school, he became interested in education because of the difference between those experiences.
Both of Wyatt’s parents attended Wayne State and pushed him to consider applying. His mother earned a bachelor’s in human resources management, and his father attended Wayne State for several semesters before graduating from another university with a degree in engineering.
Wyatt — who has three brothers and one sister — was not sure what he wanted to do after high school, and his family was experiencing some financial challenges, so he pursued associate degrees in general studies and liberal studies from Oakland Community College to help save money.
Wyatt applied for a job at an elementary school near his house because it allowed him to work around his class schedule. After observing him and receiving good feedback from parents and staff, the principal asked him to work one-on-one with a kindergarten student with behavioral needs. At the end of the year, the principal encouraged Wyatt to apply for a position as an assistant teacher. Even though he did not have the required certification or teaching experience, she advocated for him, and he spent the next five years working full time in the resource room while pursuing his degree. During that time, he transferred to Wayne State, using the money he earned to pay the majority of his tuition.
Wyatt said the principal’s support kept him motivated during his program and helped him find his passion in education.
“It was a combination of coincidence and chance, but it was also because this person saw what I was able to do and really trusted me to do it,” he said. “I never had that experience before, especially being 18 and just out of high school. I had several jobs in high school, but I never had a real career, so for someone to say, ‘I’ve seen how you work, I want you on my team, and I want to support you’ was a really nice feeling.”
Wyatt, who is now 25, credits his mother for being a good example of what it means to be a teacher.
“She showed me that teaching is about more than showing up and teaching the curriculum,” he said. “It is showing up, building relationships and meeting the academic, social, and emotional needs of your students.”
Wyatt did his pre-student teaching in Ferndale, Michigan, and completed two practicums at schools in Detroit. He said he appreciates the College of Education for allowing him to return to the elementary school in Troy where his journey to becoming an educator began to do his student teaching. Wyatt currently works at a Troy middle school to complete the special education requirements.
“I would definitely encourage aspiring teachers to attend Wayne State,” he said. “The university has a very flexible program. I worked full time and could take classes in the morning and evening, as well as online. The professors have a diverse range of skills, abilities and experiences that allowed us to explore different perspectives. They shared their experiences and successes with us, and we could take away whatever worked for us. There was also a diversity of experience among my classmates. We all weren’t just 18- and 19-year-olds. Some of us had families, others were returning to school or switching careers, and some were attending college for the first time in their thirties, but we were all working toward the same common goal. That was nice because we got this support system, too.”
Wyatt said even though he was from the suburbs, he felt a strong connection to Detroit.
“It is hard to come to a big city and feel like you are a part of the community,” he said. “I don’t think that can happen in very many places, but there is something special about Detroit and Wayne State that make you feel like you belong.”
The same principal who took Wyatt under her wing recently invited him to a job fair. He had five minutes to meet with four principals. He did not think he did particularly well, and was surprised when he received six job offers in general education.
“I feel like having certification in elementary education and special education makes me more marketable,” said Wyatt, who is interviewing for a special education position in a few weeks. “I hope to secure a position in special education. That is where I really want to end up.”