Journey to Speech Language Pathology

Growing up I never knew exactly what I wanted to be. A baker, a teacher, a dancer, even a professional potato peeler on a Navy ship (that is 100% true). After many years of searching I landed on a Speech Language Pathologist. How do you go from potato peeler to SLP? This is that story.

Little Elizabeth 💃🏼

Now as a kid I was always trying new things. Technology? Sure! Mission work? I got you. 4-H President? You’re talking to her. But that made choosing my “thing” very hard.

In high school I started to narrow down my choices, and after having a fantastic time doing labs in Chemistry I thought I had found it. I would spend my free time in study hall going down to set up labs for other classes. Doing experiments were like the creative side of me peaking through, while to math spoke to my analytic side. I was going to be a Chemistry High School Teacher.

High School Graduation

I applied to several school for undergrad, but I knew there really was only one place I wanted to be. Ball State University. The Harvard of the Midwest (totally joking). I had found the school after my mom had signed me up for a two week summer architecture program there in high school. Yes… landscape design was on my shortlist for awhile. Getting back on track, I was so excited to start at BSU, and study chemistry secondary education.

First Day of College

Well it wasn’t very long after I had moved in to the dorms and started classes that I realized that chemistry was not for me. The physics classes and calculus classes were not enjoyable at all, and I felt way over my head. The only saving grace my first semester was my lab class. I loved going back to the hands on learning.

The amount of time that I wanted to attend my classes and do my homework were quickly declining. By Thanksgiving break I knew I had to figure something else out. It was hard for me to admit that I needed a change. I told everyone I was going to be a Chemistry Teacher what would they think? Looking back now I am so glad I made the switch, and I now realize no one will care if you change your mind, you’re still learning!

Now I am a huge TV junkie and I had been binge watching all of “Switched at Birth”. If you haven’t seen the show it’s about two girls switched at birth, one of which is deaf. I was interested in the ASL culture of the show and wanted to know more. Talking with my parents over Thanksgiving break, I decided to share my newest interest. Ball State had a deaf education program which I thought would be a perfect carryover from chemistry education. Although that path was on my list to consider, my parents brought of speech language pathology as a path in life. At the time I had heard a couple girls in my dorm were doing that major, but honestly I didn’t know much about it.

Ball State University

Doing some research I came to find the large scope and range of services that an SLP can provide services. SLPs can work in schools, hospitals, private practice, and more! It allowed me to pull in all of my different interests, and allow myself to branch off if I ever need a change. All of these things really spoke to me.

So I quickly changed my major and classes for second semester. I knew I would need to pull up my poor grades from first semester if I ever had any chance of getting into grad school… But what would that experience hold in store for me?

Part 2 coming soon…

Dress Challenge Final Thoughts

I wanted a challenge. Something that I could look forward to everyday when I went into work. This past year due to COVID we were aloud to wear jeans everyday to work. I decided to merge my challenge with this change of clothing. The dress challenge was then born. everyday I went to work I would wear some type of dress or skirt to work. My dress challenge in April really made me realize somethings that I didn’t think it would. Here are some of the highlights.

Pink hair for April Fools Day!

1) Re-wearing clothes that make you feel great help improve your attitude on the day. I swear I felt better on days where I was really feeling my outfit. I even when through one of the hardest days yet of my career during this time, and looking back I am so happy I was wearing a comfortable dress on that day.

Monochrome Moment

2) I have wayyyy too many clothes that I don’t like, and need to get rid of. If they don’t make me feel great, then why have them? I know that I have some clothes that are two years old, and I have never worn them. I always said that I would wear them someday, but if that hasn’t come yet then it’s not worth holding on to. Knowing that all pants were out for the month allowed me to realize what dress and skirts I actually like!

Denim jacket became a staple!

3) Dresses can be powerful. There was something about taking on my feminine side and having dresses be a closet staple. (Yes, anyone can wear a dress/skirt, personally I equate them with my feminine side). The freeness that comes with wearing a dress and still kicking some therapy booty was so powerful. I think sometimes we are afraid to express the feminine side in case we come off as “weak” or “unable to complete a task”, let me tell you, YOU can do anything in a dress! I paired them with shorts and found athletic dresses that have built in shorts for those days that I know I may have to tackle a lot!

Cardigan from Shein.

4) My students were able to relate with what I wore. Little girls would come up to me and say how they are wearing a dress and we matched. It was wonderful to make those small connections throughout the day. This pairs with number 3 above with showing littles how powerful that side of ourselves can be! I feel like overtime we begin to wear dresses less and less for a variety of different reasons, but I want to reclaim the reasons I may feel like I can’t.

Black & White became a theme

5) Confidence in my body grew. Sometimes I didn’t always like how a skirt, shirt, or dress would fall on me, but it was amazing how the more I wore, the more confident I was becoming. The first few days I was super self-conscious wearing a dress to work and kept pulling at the hem. Slowly overtime I found a confidence in myself that grew to love whatever I chose and others didn’t have to worry about it.

I loved pairing graphic t-shirts with skirts or over dresses!

6) Stepping outside my box- this was my biggest takeaway. I put together color combinations, materials, and clothing items that I never thought I could pull off. I’ve found a fashion that I think 14 year old Elizabeth would have been proud of.

My Middle School Madness: Part One

When I was attending graduate school I thought I would end up working with elementary students. My school externship was with Pre-K through 5th grade and I loved it! I started collecting as many picture books as I could find. My parents were quickly starting a storage pile for my materials as my studio apartment at the time had zero room to spare.

Earning my MA

Then it came time to apply for jobs after school. All I knew was I wanted to stay somewhere in the midwest, preferably a larger city area. I grew up in rural Illinois and I wanted something different. I applied outside of Chicago, STL, and Kansas City. Honestly I was applying to any and all SLP jobs that I could find. I was not really focusing on what grade placement it would be. To my surprise I heard back from a school district only two days after applying. They asked for an skype interview later on that same day. I quickly rushed back to my apartment, took a shower (dry shampoo was not going to cut it), and found the nicest shirt I could find.

For my interview I had all my cheat sheets out in front of me since they couldn’t see it. I printed off my resume, any questions I had, and the school salary schedule. I also printed off the school’s mission statement. I would recommend this to anyone applying for a job. You can use the same language and terms that they have in their mission statement. It makes it seem like you are already apart of the team and a perfect match for the school. Anyway… back to the interview. They asked me a few questions about testing and how I would set up my groups. My favorite question was if I could have my dream speech room what would be included and why. During the meeting they also asked if I had looked over the salary schedule and were surprised when I held it up for them on my end (so happy I had my notes)!

My youngest brother and me at grad school graduation.

After my interview with the special education director and another SLP in the district they mentioned that they had two positions open, one for elementary and one for secondary. I stated that I have more experience in elementary, but that my youngest brother was a middle schooler so I could “vibe” with the kids. They said they would be in contact in the next couple days as their board meeting was the next day. I couldn’t stop shaking after the interview was over. It finally hit me that this was happening. I wasn’t going to go back to work at Dairy Queen, my high school/college job, I was going to become this SLP that I had been working so hard to become.

Well those next two days seemed to last forever. On the second day I kept telling myself I didn’t get the job. My mom was encouraging me saying that it may take many interviews to land a job. It was like something out of a movie though, because while I was talking to her I missed a call from the school district offering me the job. When I called back and asked for which position, they said it would be for the middle/high school position. I told them I would need some time think about it and get back to them…

Was I ok with working with this age group? This was not something that I had been preparing for. What would I do with all the materials I had been accumulating. Was I even ready to work with the higher language levels that come with this age group? I kept doubting myself.

After visiting the district, since it was five hours from home, and many hours of soul searching I accepted the job. I was excited to move to my new city, start making new friends, and get myself established. But was I ready for middle schoolers?