School of Education student wins statewide scholarship

Waco senior Jackie Serales is the recipient of the 2015-2016 Texas Association of School Personnel Administrators scholarship because of her passion for special education teaching. Photo credit: Courtesy of School of Education

For Waco senior Jackie Searles, teaching in the classroom is something she gets excited about each day. Thanks to that passion, Searles is the newest recipient of the 2015-2016 Texas Association of School Personnel Administrators scholarship.

This is the seventh year in a row that a Baylor student has won the award and the 13th Baylor winner since 1998.

The scholarship has been given since 1989 to assist college students seeking their initial teaching certification or endorsement, according to the association’s website.

Searles said she found out about the scholarship win by email over the summer. She was one of two students from Baylor nominated for the scholarship.

“I received a call that I had gotten it. I was very surprised honestly. I didn’t know what to expect,” Searles said. “I researched into the scholarship, and then I looked at the previous recipients of it and I was like, ‘Wow, this is a big deal.’”

Searles said she is using the scholarship to help pay for Baylor this year, but the award will help her further her education once she graduates in May.

“Baylor is great at offering financial aid, but still, school’s expensive,” Searles said. “It’s helped me this year, especially now that I haven’t been able to work, and it will help me make my Master’s degree more attainable.”

Searles said she decided to go into the education field because she loves learning. She said she is also passionate about working with special education students.

“I think that’s one of the best gifts we can give other people ­— teaching them,” Searles said.

Searles said she was inspired by her grandmother to go into the special education field after hearing stories about her time in the education world. She was also inspired by personal experience.

“The reason why I chose special education was because of my high school experiences, and I’ve always loved uniqueness and differences,” Searles said. “I’m one of those people who thinks uniqueness and differences is one of the most beautiful things that could ever be.”

Throughout her undergraduate career, Searles has taught at various schools in the Waco community because of the hands-on program Baylor’s school of education offers.

“There’s so many great partnerships, and you can definitely see the dynamics of [each of the] schools, and they’re each so great for their different reasons,” Searles said.

Searles said it’s the little things, like her students excitedly running to greet her each day or seeing them meet goals, that have impacted her the most while teaching in the classroom.

Searles said teaching and preparing lessons isn’t easy, but the finished product is always worth the effort she puts in.

“It doesn’t matter how many hours I put into a lesson, I just want the best education for them,” Searles said. “Everyone has the ability to learn, some people just have to learn differently.”

Searles said Tracey Sulak, a lecturer in educational psychology, has influenced her by making her feel capable of doing things that she was not confident of doing at times.

“She made me realize that even when the situations aren’t in your favor, you can overcome that,” Searles said.

Sulak said when nominating students for the scholarship she is looking for students who are making a difference in children’s lives because they want to and are happy about it.

“This is something they’re really putting their heart and soul into, changing the lives of children,” Sulak said.

Sulak said she nominated Searles for the scholarship because her heart and soul is in teaching. She added that when Searles teaches she thinks about teaching her students in more way than one.

“What’s going to be good for them emotionally, socially [and] academically … she addresses all of these issues,” Searles said.