Loving Learning & Beating Bullying: Christy Cerminn
By Theresa Schmidt
College is often looked back on as “the best years of your life,” but for lifelong learners like Christy Cerminn, the best days of your life are always ahead of you. “I think it’s very important to educate yourself forever. Things don’t just stop the way they are – they’re always changing and I think it’s important for you to stay up on your professional development…Without it, you just become status quo,” Christy relates.
"I was thinking about going back ..."
With two children and two Master’s degrees already under her belt, Christy is anything but status quo. Currently working as a High School Social Worker for Belleville Township District 201 (Belleville East and Belleville West High Schools), Christy has used her Master of Arts in Educational Administration/Leadership degree from McKendree to spearhead the district’s anti-bullying program, for which she received the McKendree Graduate Honors Award in April 2010. She remembers, “I was thinking about going back and getting my doctorate in social work, but my friend ended up getting her Master’s in Administration from McK and said, ‘I think you should go there, I think you would really like it.’ And she was completely right; it was right up my alley.”
"The class sizes were perfect ..."
McKendree opened up a whole new world for Christy: “I had been working in this little bubble…I just learned so much; I feel like I blossomed as a person, and I met a lot of nice people. The class sizes were perfect; I felt if you had a question you could always ask. I never, ever had that moment where I thought, ‘Well, I can’t say that.’ You were just made to feel like, ‘Yeah, we’re here to help you and we’re here to teach you.’ I learned a lot and I had to think outside the box.”
"We learned from it."
Unfortunately, Christy’s extra education was put to the test all too soon when Belleville West High School was pushed into the national spotlight following a bullying incident on a school bus that was caught on camera. She notes, “I think it was just more sad that the students involved didn’t know how to handle themselves. We learned from it. As a district, we worked harder to put something in place that is really going to change something. We’re trying really hard to just be positive. We want everybody to come to school and feel safe.”
Some of these programs include an anonymous bullying hotline for parents, students and teachers; monthly classroom meetings; four district-wide bullying rules; and an innovative program where high school students travel to the district’s feeder schools to do skits and presentations on bullying. Christy feels that frequently updating the prevention program is especially important since bullying is constantly evolving as well. She recalls, “When I was a kid, you’d get mad at somebody, you’d go home, and you’d have all night to think about the situation. Now, everything’s so instant; you get mad at somebody, you just automatically post to the world on Facebook any mean thing right off the top of your head.”
"If you’re in education, it’s constantly changing ..."
These changes make lifelong learning a particular priority for anyone in the education field: “If you’re in education, it’s constantly changing; if you’re not a lifelong learner, than you’re going to fall behind and how are you supposed to educate and help the kids if you’re not even up to par?”
McKendree’s dedication to lifelong learning is one of the reasons Christy felt so at home here. She notes, “My McKendree professors were definitely lifelong learners. Always. They just had this passion for what they were doing and they just sucked you into it. It’s awesome when a professor has a passion about something because then it makes you excited about it as well.”