By Mike Kilen
GCU News Bureau
Emily Pottinger has a boy, going on 2, with a girl on the way in November. She’ll be able to tell her children one day that during a crazy time of pandemic, while pregnant and working from home, she was promoted to Assistant Dean of Grand Canyon University College of Education.
Being a parent has reminded her of the importance of the job, starting when she was a first grade teacher 15 years ago to today guiding new teachers into the field.
“It might be considered cliché to say you love kids, but really when you get in the (teaching) field and start seeing how much you can bring to your learners at whatever age, you really are an extension of the parent,” she said.
“I have a toddler now myself and I see that from the ground up, and it makes me value what I did as a first grade teacher even more because I know how much I care for my own child. I can imagine all the parents sending their little ones off to school and how grateful I am for my son’s day care teacher to care for and love him.”
Pottinger is a nine-year GCU veteran, and her previous role was faculty chair of COE’s full-time traditional faculty. As she advances higher into leadership, she hasn’t forgotten the reason she got into the field.
“I love the thought that I’m helping support future teachers -- who are then going to love their first graders or their high schoolers -- by sharing my knowledge with them,” she said.
Pottinger made a mark as faculty chair by building unity among COE’s traditional and online faculty.
“I think it’s relationships I have been able to grow and build and foster,” she said. “It can be easy to get in your bubble. But sometimes you have to step out of the weeds. One of my goals was to help in building those bridges between departments, specifically with our online counterparts.”
Pottinger was a first grade teacher for five years at Alta E. Butler Elementary School in the Isaac School District in Phoenix, while she earned her GCU degree, Master of Arts in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.
She was hired at GCU in 2011 as an online full-time faculty member and quickly became a leader, serving as manager of online full-time faculty before moving to the traditional campus post in 2013.
That drive didn’t go unnoticed.
“She is much admired and respected by all of those who know her,” said Dr. Kimberly LaPrade, Dean of COE. “With her passion for teaching and learning, her management experience and her drive for success, this promotion is well deserved.”
Pottinger wasn’t one to rest on laurels. She started a podcast, “Top of the Class,” with Dr. Meredith Critchfield while studying for a doctorate in Psychology with an Emphasis in Cognition and Instruction, which she said has given her deeper insight into how the brain learns.
“I have a very driven circle of support,” she said. “When you are surrounded by like-minded driven colleagues and friends, that is like fuel to the fire.”
Once she makes up her mind, there’s no stopping. It was that way when Pottinger found that she had a natural way with children as a young woman and wanted to be a teacher and once she began studying for her undergraduate degree at Arizona State and considered it a calling.
In her new role as Assistant Dean, Pottinger will focus on supporting the Clinical Practices team, such as in-the-field experiences of students in practicums, internships and student teaching, as well as accreditation processes and state requirements for teachers across the country.
“We need to find ways to uplift education, especially now. Things are different than what anybody expected in the field of education, so anything we can do to support that is important,” Pottinger said.
Today, she still gets notes of appreciation from seniors in high school who had her as a first grade teacher. It reminds her of an educator’s influence, even while she prepares for a child of her own later this fall while taking on a new leadership role and defending her dissertation.
“I’m trying to crank that out before the baby arrives. Teachers are gluttons for punishment," she joked. "But we love to continually learn.
“The overall message is I’m here today in this position because of so many people in my life. I couldn’t have done it without all those friends, family and colleagues. Even though I’m driven, that support has been instrumental in my growth, which has given me the opportunity to be a leader.”
Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.