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Graduate Q&A: Michelle Prokof

Michelle Prokof, B.S.W. ’17

Michelle Prokof earned her Bachelor of Social Work from TCU in 2017 and worked for TCU College Advising Corps (CAC) for two years, helping increase college access for underrepresented high school students. She received the national organization’s Peter and Laurie Grauer True North Award for second year advisers who have “demonstrated impact, grace, humility, leadership, and most of all the ability to guide students and fellow advisers in a way that makes College Advising Corps a better program.” She will earn her M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction with an emphasis in curriculum studies and teaches ninth grade English at Arlington Heights High School.

Why did you decide to start a career and master’s degree in education?

“I knew I wanted to be a teacher but learned as I went. In social work you see children who ask or are referred for help, but I liked education because you get to see every kid whether they’re asking for help or not. I went through an alternative certification program and advised at Carter Riverside for CAC. A lot of people tried to talk me more into higher education but I love my job and showing up every day – even on my hardest days. I’m glad I was in CAC because I learned how to get something done at a school and I built a lot of relationships in secondary education and higher education.”

What did you research and write about for your thesis?

“My thesis is Education, History, Discipline: Using Currere to Examine a First Year Teacher’s Experience with Race and Education, focusing on how curriculum involves the self. I used my past experiences and experiences as a first-year teacher to think about how it impacts me as a teacher and ultimately my students. I used my whole life to inform and understand my teaching and the education system, like why Pre-AP classes are predominately white and on-level classes have more students of color. I wanted to understand why and how my students’ experience is significantly different from mine.”

What have you learned from your master’s coursework and research?

“As I went through the master’s program, I saw more that I wanted to impact the educational experience of students of color in a different way. Now I’m thinking more deeply in lesson planning and trying to represent diverse authors.”

“So much of what I learned is a constant conversation in my head and informs what I do. You can learn how to lesson plan as you go but it’s really hard to learn that the education system isn’t helping some kids. You realize that very different schools have the same curriculum and that’s something you have to critically think about.”

What advice do you have for future educators?

“When I transitioned into being a teacher I had to manage a lot of different behavior. If a lesson didn’t work you have to figure out what to do and be flexible. I try to be as open as possible with my students and remember that every day is a new day.”