Spartan Spotlight: Study abroad experience helps Spanish and education major Kacie Walker walk in students’ shoes

Kacie Walker

Senior Spanish and education major Kacie Walker, recipient of the 2014 Golden Apple Award

Senior Kacie Walker knows what it’s like to dive head first into a new culture. She understands the feeling of being lost and unwelcome when everyone else is speaking another language. She has had the experience of pushing through uncertainty and gaining confidence, and knows the reward of challenging herself to get outside of her comfort zone. And now she’s ready to share what she’s learned with elementary students in similar situations – English Language Learners who are walking into a new school, not knowing the language or customs of their peers.

Walker took a big leap of faith when she came to Aurora University. After earning a degree and establishing a career in baking and pastry, she realized that her true passion lay in education, and applied to AU to earn her teaching certification. She took an even bigger leap when she decided to study abroad for a full semester in Spain, the first AU student to do so. She headed for Madrid, by herself, with only basic language skills. But, after overcoming her initial feelings of uncertainty, she pushed herself to make the most of her experience. She not only immersed herself in the Spanish culture, but also became a self-proclaimed “travel junkie,” rarely staying in her apartment and exploring both Spain and the Netherlands.

Now, back in the United States, armed with an Aurora University degree, Walker is looking to combine her passion for teaching and her experiences with study abroad as an ESL/bilingual elementary teacher. “I feel that I can relate to students who do not completely understand the language or the culture,” she said. “I’ve been in the position of not knowing what’s going on, but I also know how to make that situation better for my students. With the practical knowledge I gained in field experiences in classrooms over the past three years, I know that I’m prepared to step into a teaching role.”

The university recognized Walker’s commitment to academic achievement, leadership and caring attitude at this year’s Honors Convocation, where she received the Golden Apple Award, honoring an outstanding senior in education.