Pre-K Teacher from South America Earns Her Degree in Minnesota
On January 1, 2019, Heroutie Singh posted on her Facebook page, "Faith is like taking the first step without even seeing the staircase.” Little did she know those words would soon resonate with a journey she never expected.
Pursuing her passion in a new country
Heroutie knows one thing for certain: she loves teaching children. After immigrating from Guyana, South America, in 2005, she moved to Minnesota with her husband and son.
The transition was not easy. Even small things like the weather were a big adjustment. While she was used to tropical temperatures, she had to acclimate to freezing winters spent mostly indoors. In a place 3,466 miles away, there was little to remind her of home.
Despite the challenges, however, Heroutie’s love for children remained the same, and she decided to continue her career in early childhood education.
“I felt that I couldn't do anything else except teach,” she says. “Teaching is not just my profession, it’s my passion. I feel like I understand young children and know how to mold them.”
Though she had already been teaching for 22 years there were some things Heroutie was not used to. From American teaching materials to curriculum and classroom culture, the differences were overwhelming at times. Heroutie wanted to continue improving—to better serve the children in her classes.
“I thought if I went back to school, I could learn how to deal with these situations and I would have more experience in teaching children. And I would be a better person for myself too,” she says.
Taking the first step
With that in mind, Heroutie looked into a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education at Rasmussen College.1 It had been 18 years since she was a student. She recalls anxiously trying to fill out the application form. “I couldn't even type I was so nervous,” she says. Thanks to some help from her advisor and the admissions office, however, Heroutie didn’t let that stop her.
“They told me, ‘You don't have to be scared. You're going to be fine. Just go ahead and do what you have to do,’” she says, “And that’s what I did.”
Despite struggling to get her transcripts from Guyana to Minnesota, and missing the fall start date, Heroutie persisted. With the support of her family and friends, she was finally enrolled in the winter of 2019 at the Rasmussen College Brooklyn Park Campus as an online student.
Learning through the challenges
Though she was more motivated than most, Heroutie will be the first to admit that going back to school hasn’t always been easy.
“Technology was my biggest fear,” she says.
She recalls one instance that challenged her resolve. After spending several days writing a term paper, Heroutie accidentally saved her work with the same title as another assignment, and, thinking they were duplicate, unknowingly deleted it.
“When I went to submit the assignment, I’m thinking, Where is it? I couldn’t find it. I felt like I couldn’t breathe,” she says.
With the deadline only two days away, Heroutie began to panic. She contacted Rasmussen's technical support services who sadly informed her the document had been permanently deleted. Though she felt overwhelmed by the loss, she took a step back and decided to try again.
“I never gave up,” she says. “I felt that if you want to accomplish something in life, it's not going to come to you automatically, and you have to work for it.”
A day later, she submitted a new paper, earning an A. Though it was difficult, Heroutie says she’s not really a “get-it-over-and-done-with” type of person anyway.
“It's not just about getting all A's or getting all one hundred percent for your work,” she says.
For her, it’s about being able to practice that A in her classroom and apply it to teaching her own students. Heroutie doesn’t quit until she really knows the material.
“I'm the one with a million questions. I always ask questions,” she says.
It’s this kind of resolve that she passes on to her students, encouraging them to practice on their own and understand by doing it themselves.
Showing up for her students
As Heroutie approaches graduation, she has already begun to apply what she’s learned to her own classroom. One of the biggest take-aways for her has been learning about what she now calls “mistaken behavior.”
Any ECE teacher will tell you that dealing with outbursts from children can be a very challenging part of the job. Equipped with a new outlook, however, Heroutie feels empowered to respond in new ways. She recalls one instance in particular.
Before the onset of COVID-19, Heroutie was in the lunchroom with her students. Out of nowhere, one of them squirted a carton of milk all over her face. While she might have previously written this off as bad behavior, she decided to press further.
To her surprise, the child responded that she was just curious if the milk would come out faster when she squeezed the carton. Heroutie was able to use this as a teaching moment and even created a lesson plan around the experiment.
“If I hadn't gone back to school, I wouldn't have known to do that,” she says.
Looking forward to the future
With only a few months left before earning her Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education, Heroutie is excited to get back to her own students.
“I miss seeing their faces, getting their hugs, and most of all listening to their chatter,” she says.
But like many others in this time of a global pandemic, she knows she must be patient.
“My kiddos’ needs come first,” she says, “and I will do everything I can to make sure they are getting an opportunity to learn.”
Heroutie has overcome a lot to get where she is now. She moved her family thousands of miles, learned to celebrate her own culture in a foreign one, went back to school for her bachelor’s degree, faced frustration and failure, but refused to quit. She has grown as both a person and an educator.
“I have become more self-confident. I have become more persistent and more aware that nothing is going to come to you just like that. The most important thing is that failure is not the end,” she says. “If I can do it, you can do it.”
For those facing similar challenges, Heroutie offers a simple piece of encouragement.
“My advice is just these few words,” she says. “Don't give up on your goals.”
1The Rasmussen College Early Childhood Education Bachelor's Degree has not been approved by any state professional licensing body, and this program is not intended to lead to any state issued professional license. For further information on professional licensing requirements, please contact the appropriate board or agency in your state of residence.