Deidre Gilley ’17 chooses graduate school as her pathway to teaching exceptional children

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Deidre Gilley
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Why Pfeiffer

Deidre Gilley’s collegiate resume lists accomplishments almost too numerous to mention. Among them are: president of the Department of Education Club and the Campus Activities Board; tutor for Pfeiffer Readiness Education Program and the Wick Sharpe Learning Center; Conference Carolinas All-Academic Team/women’s soccer; Grigg Scholar; and Dean’s List. In addition to accomplishing all of this—as well as student teaching—in three years, she was able to choose from five graduate programs for continuing her education.

Deidre, a special education major and Honors Program participant from Knoxville, Tenn., chose Florida State University (FSU) for graduate studies as she pursues a dual master’s program in severe disabilities and transitional process. In her opinion, it is the program that will best prepare her to help the population of students she is drawn to teach. At FSU, she’ll have the opportunity to apply research experience gained at Pfeiffer—and possibly continue work she started as an undergraduate--through a graduate research assistantship.

“As a student teacher, Ms. Gilley was wholly focused on students as individuals, and she worked hard to find what works for each one; it was a blessing for the students and me to see her passion, enthusiasm and readiness for any challenge,” said Kim Newmyer, exceptional children’s teacher at Mount Pleasant High School. “It gives me hope that the quality of new teachers will make things great for teachers and students alike. If upcoming students are half as qualified as Ms. Gilley, our future will be in great hands.”

Volunteering for Special Olympics, World Health Day and Autism Awareness connected Deidre to people in the community whom she regards as “the best on the planet,” and cemented her decision to become a special education teacher. In addition, she considers the research, presentation and forthcoming publication opportunities provided through Pfeiffer’s Honors Program and Grigg Scholarship key to giving her “an edge” in terms of tackling master’s-level work.

“I was able to conduct research in a way that is beyond the undergraduate scale,” she said in reference to the four out-of-classroom projects she completed at Pfeiffer. “The education I received at Pfeiffer is a stepping stone into the future and a place I can always return to; it’s a major part of who I am today and will be for the rest of my life.”