Alumni Update: Mandi Beesler

What are your children’s ages and how old are they?
I have two daughters- Alivia, 20 and Bella, 13.
Where did you go to school and what is your degree?
I have my Associate’s Degree in Science from NWACC, Bachelors of Science in Education from the University of Arkansas, and currently finishing up my Master’s Degree in Special Education with Arkansas State University.
Where are you working?
I have been employed with Fayetteville Public Schools since 2013 as a Special Education Teacher for Fayetteville High School.
What has been the most rewarding thing about having a degree?
I absolutely love what I get to do every day and knowing that I did it on my own while raising children has been the best reward.
What or who kept you motivated during your time as an SPSF NWA scholarship recipient? How did SPSF NWA contribute to that motivation?
My daughters, my parents and my brother were my encouragers throughout the entire process as well as former Executive Director Jody Dilday and Program Director Carrie Miller. When I was discouraged during my most challenging times, Jody and Carrie kept me afloat and on track. I am forever grateful.
How did your pursuit of a college education influence your children or other family members?
My daughter Alivia has decided to pursue her degree in education with the University of Arkansas, when she originally said she wasn’t going attend college.
What has changed most for you and your family now that you are no longer in school?
I am no longer receiving food stamps, my children are off of Medicaid and I am fully supporting my children as well as my disabled mother all on my own.
What was the most beneficial part of being a SPSF NWA scholarship recipient?
Once you become a recipient, you are part of the family. We all encourage and support one another, our children get to grow up together, and participate in activities that we normally wouldn’t be able to afford to do.
What do your kids want to be when they grow up? 
Alivia is majoring in Art Education, with a focus on art therapy for special education. Bella wants to be a chef and a detective, amongst many other things.
What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment since completing your degree? 
Just last week I was not only named Fayetteville High School “Teacher of the Year,” but I was also awarded Fayetteville Public Schools “Teacher of the Year” for which I am extremely honored and humbled. I also serve as the President of the SPSF NWA Alumni Association.
Looking back, was there one skill that you learned that was particularly useful, either in college or in the professional world? 
I participated in a resume writing workshop and practice interview session with SPSF NWA and it was a tremendous help to me.
What advice would you give someone desiring to go back to school/current recipient (think general advice or a quote you live by)? 
Remember, you are doing this to better YOURSELF and be a better provider for your family. Your children will respect you and want to follow in your footsteps.
Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
What is something that has surprised you since graduating?
I didn’t realize how strong I was until I accomplished my dream of graduating college.
Can you please tell us more about your experience teaching this year during COVID-19?
This has by far been the hardest year as an educator I’ve ever experienced. Having students regress tremendously being virtual, having students coming different days and then going back to virtual, etc. made it harder. It was a lot to keep up with, but we survived and came out stronger in the end!
What adjustments have you had to make? 
A lot of my students lost a lot of their basic skills that they had mastered, so we had to start all over again, which made it even harder because I had students on multiple different levels.
The past 3 years have been very challenging. I was diagnosed with cancer, two weeks later my baby brother passed at the age of 38, and then I lost my Dad two years later. Losing the two most important men in my life has been extremely hard, but has brought my mother and I closer as we navigate life without them. I am still in complete shock and extremely honored for this award! I know that I have made my brother and Dad extremely proud!

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