Sara Cook recalls being asked many times by her elementary school teachers what she wanted to be when she grew up. “I want to be like you,” she told each one who asked. “I definitely knew I had that spot in my heart for teaching.”

Cook started at Moraine Valley with plans to go into teaching but wanted to be sure, so she considered other careers. “I thought about a few different majors, like maybe I’d become a social worker or a speech therapist. So, I talked with counselors and advisors but ended up going back to the teaching route,” she said.

After completing her general education requirements along with numerous Early Childhood Program classes, she transferred to Saint Xavier University, where she began student teaching. “It was crazy that I got placed in the elementary school where I grew up and with a teacher I was very close with in my elementary school days. Positions were opening up, and I accepted a job even before I graduated,” she said.

Teaching in a blended preschool program with general and special education children, Cook finds her job to be extremely rewarding. “The best part about being a teacher is seeing the growth and successes in my students. As a preschool teacher, people think you’re just teaching them colors, letters and shapes, but there’s so much more. Even in a behavioral sense, there are so many accomplishments they’ve made since the beginning of the year. I love it more than I ever could have imagined,” she said.

She credits her post-secondary schools with providing her the guidance, support and academic skills to be successful in her career. “The Education Department at Moraine Valley is tight-knit and small, and that’s a benefit,” she said. “When you have a smaller community, everyone’s a little bit closer. You really get to know your teachers, and the teachers get to know you—and they know you by name. They really care about you and want to set you up for success. It was a great starting point,” she said.