"I think Saint Martin’s helps you grow into the person you thought it wasn’t quite possible to be. When you look back, you think, wow, they helped me discover myself."
Even though Bethany Partin ’03 and her daughter Mariah ’18 attended Saint Martin’s fifteen years apart, they both fondly remember the encouragement and care they received from the Saint Martin’s community. Bethany received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education, along with a certification and a reading endorsement, and Mariah graduated with her degree in English and a minor in secondary education; both were advised by Fumie Hashimoto, Ph.D., professor of education. But Bethany and Mariah took different paths to arrive at Saint Martin’s.
For many years before coming to Saint Martin’s, Bethany served as a parent volunteer at the schools that her children attended. “I enjoyed volunteering, I just didn’t think that I could become a teacher,” Bethany said. “You know, these people are educated and knowledgeable, then I realized, wait a minute, I think I can do this. I’m very personable and I like people.” As a volunteer, she spent a lot of time with teachers, and it turned out that many of those teachers had graduated from Saint Martin’s education program. “I heard that the program was great and that the class sizes were small,” Bethany said. “I transferred from South Puget Sound Community College. When I got here, I found the professors extremely helpful.”
Bethany was the first in her family to attend college and she appreciated the fact that her professors made time outside of the classroom to assist her with her academic planning. “Coming back to school at middle age, I found that my professors were willing to walk me through the experience of becoming a teacher, what classes I needed to take,” she said. “They helped me plan my whole two years. I also liked that they encouraged me to use my experience as a volunteer parent to connect with what they were teaching.”
Besides highlighting the influence of former professors Belinda Hill, Ph.D., and Maureen Siera, Ed.D., Bethany also mentioned the assistance she received from Fumie Hashimoto, Ph.D., professor of education and interim dean of the College of Education and Counseling. “With Dr. Hashimoto, I could always stop in to talk to her and say, ‘Hey, I need help.’ Hashimoto is a guiding force.”
Mariah visited the Saint Martin’s campus a few times as a child when Bethany was enrolled in classes—together, they would visit the cafeteria to share some “giant cookies,” as Bethany remembered. When it was time to choose a college, Mariah decided that she wanted to explore what life was like at a school outside of Washington. She chose Arizona State University (ASU), in Tempe, Arizona, but after three years there as a business major, she realized that business wasn’t right for her. In her last semester at ASU, she switched her major to English and secondary education, but then decided to transfer to Saint Martin’s to continue her studies in secondary education. “I've always found education important,” she said. “I volunteered in the schools and community so I thought teaching would be a good fit, plus I was surrounded by great teachers growing up, with my mom, of course, and many in the North Thurston School District.”
It was easy for Mariah to return to Saint Martin’s because she already had some experience of the University. “I came back here because I knew Saint Martin’s has a really good education program and I ended up having classes with a lot of the same people, which was nice because we could sit together and work through problems,” she said. “I could ask questions of everyone in the education department—all the professors. I liked how personal it was.”
Like Bethany, Mariah emphasized that one of the aspects of Saint Martin’s that made a difference for her was the small class sizes and the fact that her professors were willing to help her when she needed assistance. “I wasn’t sure how I would feel about small class sizes, but after being here, I thought, oh my gosh, this is wonderful,” she said. “I never would have thought I’d have a 30 minute or hour-long conversation with a professor about something I wrote.”
Mariah was advised by Jamie Olson, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of the English Department, for her English studies and by Hashimoto for her education minor. She praised both Olson and Hashimoto—along with Jeff Birkenstein, Ph.D., and Todd Barosky, Ph.D., both in English, and Eric Boyer, Ph.D., and Marcela de Souza, Ph.D., in education—for their actions as teachers and advisors. “They show genuine care,” she said. “I learned about differentiated learning and culturally responsive teaching to help engage students. Because of what I've learned at Saint Martin’s, I approach the classroom with a more open mind, taking into account that I don't know students' situations at home. I learned, especially from Dr. Boyer and Dr. de Souza, how important it is for your students to first know how much you care.”
Hashimoto has great memories of teaching Bethany and Mariah. “Someone once said, ‘All children are born with wings, teachers help them learn to fly.’ Saint Martin’s College of Education and Counseling’s teacher education program is a training ground for future teachers. We nurture their growth, following the Benedictine tradition, to help them learn to be the change agents who will make a positive difference for our future generations,” she said. “I watched both Bethany and Mariah go through our program as they both took my class 15 years apart. They are both excellent students and teachers now. I have no doubt that they are training children to fly toward their bright futures.”
Bethany works as a second grade teacher at Lakes Elementary in Lacey and Mariah has a new position as a residence teacher at Branksome Hall Asia, which is located in Seogwipo, Jeju Island, in South Korea. Mariah will be living in a residence hall with a group of 10 – 12 high school girls, helping with English language learning, school work and extracurricular activities.
The Partins both expressed admiration for the ways in which Saint Martin’s taught them that they love to learn and helped them cultivate their talents. Bethany said, “I think Saint Martin’s helps you grow into the person you thought it wasn’t quite possible to be. When you look back, you think, wow, they helped me discover myself. Saint Martin’s encourages students who want to be teachers to jump in. Help out. Don’t just sit there and take notes, because how do you learn to be a teacher? By working with the students and getting to know them, building the relationship.”