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Biographical Sketch of Wendy Stutzman Simmons

Wendy Stutzman Simmons is a 31-year-old graduate student from the Department of Education where she is pursuing a Master of Arts in Teaching Secondary English. She is a native of Somerset, Pennsylvania, a small town in the Northern Appalachian Mountains that is renown for its excellent ski resorts. She has been married to Ryan Simmons for twelve years. They have two sons, Caleb (9) and Aaron (7) that are both students at Happy Valley Elementary School in Elizabethton. Due to a job transfer, the Simmons family headed south to Asheville, North Carolina in the spring of 1995.

Wendy came to ETSU in the fall semester of 2001 following undergraduate work done at Indiana University of Pennsylvania beginning in 1988. In 1992, she took a hiatus from college in order to start her family. From 1996-1998, Wendy worked as a bookstore co-manager at Books a Million in Asheville.

In 1998, Wendy moved to Johnson City when her husband began working on his master’s degree at Emmanuel School of Religion. Due to the many higher educational opportunities in the area, Wendy decided to finish her uncompleted degree at Milligan College. She graduated in spring of 2000 with a Bachelor of Arts in English, making the dean’s list several times throughout the remainder of her undergraduate degree.

Wendy is a graduate assistant in the Office of Student Life and Leadership where she is co-coordinator of the America Reads Challenge program under the supervision of Joy Fulkerson. The America Reads Challenge is a national initiative that seeks to ensure that every child can read well and independently by the end of the third grade. Wendy plays an important role in recruiting, screening, hiring, training, and placing of approximately 40 college students at partnering schools and community centers in Johnson City as well as elementary schools in Washington, Carter, Unicoi, and Sullivan counties. In the fall of 2001 and spring of 2002, the America Reads tutors have provided individualized reading instruction to more than 350 children.

Another campus activity that Wendy is passionate about is diversity training. She is a trainer/facilitator in the ETSU’s outreach to its students, faculty, and staff where the goal is to help people to accept and celebrate their differences. She is anxious to facilitate discussions between members of the ETSU community and to lead people into some new ways of thinking about their neighbors.

In addition to her responsibilities as a graduate assistant, Wendy is involved with several community service organizations. She is an Americorp/Tennessee Campus Connection member. As a part of her community service hours for this requirement, she is a volunteer reading tutor at Happy Valley Elementary. In addition, Wendy is an active member of the Interfaith Hospitality Network. This organization, consisting of a coalition of local churches, provides temporary shelter, food, and clothing for homeless families. The IHN also assists their program participants with job placement, new housing, and family counseling. Additionally, Wendy is an active member of St. John’s Episcopal Church where she teaches weekly fourth and fifth grade religious education classes and is a flutist in “Wing and a Prayer,” St. John’s folk music choir.

In the political realm, Wendy is the Tri-Cities chapter leader for Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND), an organization who’s mission is to empower women to act politically to reduce violence and militarism, and redirect excessive military resources toward unmet human and environmental needs.  Under Wendy’s supervision, the Tri-Cities WAND chapter has supported efforts that seek to direct national budget priorities that favor education and social services through letter writing campaigns to local, state, and national representatives, and also, support programs that seek unique alternatives to end the culture of violence in our society and prevent violence against women. Wendy has attended several conferences in Washington DC and was a featured speaker at the “April Action” Protest at the “Y-12” nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

Although her schedule is filled with family responsibilities and community service commitments, academics are a high priority in Wendy’s life. She is absolutely committed to her graduate education as she prepares for a career as an educator. She has maintained a 4.0 grade point average in both her education and English classes and is usually a leader of classroom discussion.
“Balance,” claims Wendy, “is a very important word in my life right now. It has taken some time to adjust to the rigors of life as an adult student. It isn’t an easy task. It remains a constant challenge to split my time in a way that lends support to my children, my husband, my job, my commitment to literacy and diversity training, and my professional development. I’ve learned to live with the feeling that ‘there is always something else’ that I should be doing. It takes planning—lots of planning. I am not a natural at time management and have had to work hard at scheduling activities, like going to a movie or going for a walk, that most people take for granted.”

When asked to state her personal motto, Wendy reveals, “I have a magnet hanging on my refrigerator that says, “That which does not kill you only makes you stronger.” This may seem a bit dramatic, but it serves as a reminder to me that all of the challenges that I face everyday: as a mom, a student, a teacher, a wife, an activist, a friend, a supervisor, and as a woman, only make me a stronger person. Another important factor that makes all that I do successful is my attitude. I am truly committed to my responsibilities and gain tremendous personal satisfaction from every role that I play in my life. When people ask me how I do it, my answer is, ‘I love it all.’ I love people, I love learning, I love teaching, and I love standing up for what I believe to be right. I am blessed to have a loving, supportive family and an educational environment that is challenging, but still provides enough room to allow for the development of personal relationships that makes going to graduate school an honor and a pleasure. Although life as an adult student is challenging, I wouldn’t change a thing.”

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Wendy Stutzman Simmons