Growing Future Leaders

Megan (VanMarter) Dean ’20 embodies the essence of finding one’s calling in education. Despite not initially planning to pursue this path, Dean’s journey led her to embrace her role at Eugene Christian School (ECS). In this Q&A, she reflects on her career choice, the significance of her role at ECS, and how her educational journey at Bushnell University prepared her for nurturing young minds. Through her experience, Dean offers valuable advice to graduates entering the job market, emphasizing openness to opportunities and trust in divine timing.

What drew you to your career in education and your current role at ECS?

My mom has been a teacher for the past 27 years and was almost positive that one of her children would become an educator as well; however, I actually did not plan on entering the education field initially. I went into Bushnell (NCU at that time) with a major in elementary education and then ended up switching to interdisciplinary studies about halfway through my first year. I studied education, psychology, and business. I decided to enter this field after my graduation year in 2020. This was right when COVID hit, so trying to find a job was incredibly difficult as many employers had stipulations and restrictions around vaccination status, working from home, etc. I had a connection with some of the people here at Eugene Christian School (ECS) and decided to give it a shot. I came into a half online half in person system. At that point, we were one of the only schools to allow any sort of in-person education options, so our enrollment skyrocketed! I fell in love with the staff and students pretty quickly, as the environment here is unlike any other. What drew me to this career is that I loved the idea of working in a place where I would be free to share my faith, talk about Jesus, pray over my students, learn about the Bible every day and make connections that would last a lifetime.

What does a typical day look like at ECS? What type of candidates are you and your team seeking, and how do you go about finding the best candidates? 

A typical day at ECS looks like a massive family, with lots of caring parents (teachers) and children who are ready to learn (students). Each day you are able to learn more about the kids in your classroom and build relationships that go beyond education. Parents trust us to not only teach their children the basic educational skills, but also impart our wisdom with the Bible and teaching about Jesus…We are looking for those individuals who will dive in and show constant love, compassion, and strength and Godly leadership in a field that can be incredibly challenging, especially in our world today. A lot of these candidates find us! There are educators who may be tired and worn out from other areas of education in different districts who have come our way, or those who are fresh out of college and want to join an environment where they can talk about Jesus – just as it was with me.

What does your role as an instructional assistant look like?

My role as an instructional assistant is to support the students and my teachers in whatever way that I am needed. Some days that means I make a lot of copies, cut out things, make projects, or even grade. Other days I am in both classrooms the entire day, floating around and being available if kids need help. Each day there are a few constants, however. I have my own small reading group of about 10 kids. This involves reading a book, small group discussions, packet work and quizzes to test for understanding. Right now we are reading “Because of Winn-dixie,” and the kids love it! I also do math pull-out groups and math and reading intervention. We have a few students who just need that extra bit of help, so I aid in leading them through concepts to help them better understand the material. For math intervention, I have a couple students on IEP programs that require extra help each day. This involves 15 mins of math to fulfill the requirements. For reading intervention I do a program called Read Naturally with about 12 students. This program requires reading a passage as fast as possible for one minute at a certain grade level 3 days a week, recording the first read and last read to track improvement in fluency. As you can see, there are many tasks that IA’s do everyday!

Why is your job industry so important? 

This job is important because if instructional assistants are there to help out the teachers, this also helps out the students! Teachers are able to put more time and attention into teaching material which allows more time with the students themselves; I am there to hopefully take some of the load off of my teachers with behind the scenes work and help with furthering understanding in the students when needed. Prep work is important! Whenever I can help with that, my teachers are so grateful. Being a teacher in itself is such an important job. We are here to grow future leaders! This next generation needs guidance that is built on a strong foundation in such a changing world, so why not be a part of that?

What drew you to Bushnell University and the teacher education program? What are some of the key ways in which the program helped prepare you for your career? 

Honestly what drew me to Bushnell at first had to do more with my athletic career than it did my educational one. I played volleyball and ran track in my years there. What I ended up learning throughout my years there was that Bushnell has everyone’s best interest at heart. I had a year where I was really struggling with some personal things and my mental health, and I had an entire team (literally and figuratively)  around me checking in and making sure that I was surrounded with love and support. My professors were rocks for me and were able to help me through my years at Bushnell. This is something that sparked my interest in eventually becoming a teacher in some capacity. I am not sure if I’ll ever have my own classroom, but I saw how supportive and influential people in this career can be, and it made me want to do that for other people. The professors at Bushnell are incredibly smart and knowledgeable. We did plenty of activities and projects in my education courses that prepared me for being in the classroom. I would say to anyone who is interested in this field, really pay attention to what you do in these courses. The activities and projects are so real and adaptable to the actual school classroom environment, and I see myself implementing something I have learned at Bushnell almost everyday.

With your experience, what advice would you give to students who are about to earn a degree and enter the job market? 

Growing up, you think “when am I actually going to use this in the real world”. When I got into the “real world” I ate the words of my childhood self. There are so many things, especially in education, that I use everyday! That is one thing I have learned over the past 3 years I have been an Instructional Assistant. Before this, however, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. My degree wasn’t in education, but I knew I loved working with kids, so I kept an open mind to the possibilities around me. Honestly it was God’s timing, and I trusted where he was leading me. My advice to students who are about to enter the job market is to keep an open mind and heart to opportunities that present themselves. Sometimes a job may fall into your lap that you never expected. It may not line up with your degree, or it may be something you have never pictured for yourself, but just trust your gut, pray, and see where God takes you! Another thing to remember is that you are young! I had a hard time with this concept, thinking I had to have my whole life together at the ripe old age of 22, graduating college. This is so far from what is true. Take your time figuring out what you like! It is okay if you are 25, like me, unsure of what your life holds for you in the next few years. The biggest thing is to make yourself available for opportunities and trust in God’s perfect timing.


The School of Education at Bushnell University equips teacher’s education and school counseling candidates with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary to be effective educators. All candidates pair in-class learning with hundreds of hours of direct experience in the field. Learn more about how to enter this rewarding profession and support children’s learning here: School of Education – Bushnell University. 

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