My LopeLife: Passion for education drives teachers

College of Education master's graduates were there in large numbers for the Friday evening ceremony.

GCU News Bureau

Editor’s note: Teachers are special. They work so hard and are so dedicated, but we need more of them – a lot more. Grand Canyon University turned out a bunch of them at Fall Commencement, and the My LopeLife stories of the ones who received their diplomas for master's degrees at the Friday evening ceremony reflect their passion for what they do. The photos are by Elizabeth Tinajero. For a full replay of the ceremony, click here.


I have always loved going to school – not to socialize or to wear the latest clothing styles, but to learn. I was more of a loner and chose my friends carefully so as not to distract me from learning and filling my mind with wonderful new ideas and intentions.

My love for education continued to grow when my mom became a teacher and then a professor. I also became a teacher, but my journey wasn’t quite like hers – and I didn’t get to instruct in the hallowed halls of a college. I was raising a daughter by myself and working full-time, so I became a nontraditional student.

Finally, I have competed this part of my journey, with my daughter, mother and family as my biggest supporters. It was only fitting that my mother, my guidepost for all things good in my life, had the honor of hooding me. It’s a symbol of how her journey became my journey and how strong women can achieve anything if they rely on their faith, love and values.

Krista Callahan

Master of Education in Early Childhood Education and Early Special Education


My oldest son is special needs (low functioning autism), so I knew that I had the experience and compassion to work with special needs students. A few years into working as a special needs paraprofessional, I decided I wanted to do more for this population of students – I wanted to be an advocate for them. I knew this would be a difficult task, but it was one I was willing to give my all.

I decided to go back to college, and when I first registered I did not think I would make it to the end. About a year into my program of study, I met the man who is now my wonderful husband, and he has helped me accomplish my dream. Throughout the past four years, I have missed out on some things, such as social life and reading for pleasure, but I had a goal in mind and I was going to accomplish it.

I sit here tonight typing this with so many emotions, but wonderful emotions. I am proud to be a part of the Grand Canyon graduation class of 2019!

Jennifer Johnson

M.E. in Elementary and Special Education


Keynote speaker Kirk Cameron addresses the audience.

I moved to the Colorado River Region, Arizona in 2005 after graduating from law school in Poland, where I was born and raised. Growing up on the farm, I was taught by my parents the most important values: love, compassion, hard work and respect to people.

I have been a fifth-grade teacher since 2012. I continuously ask myself, “What can I do differently to enrich my students’ learning?” I always strive to improve my teaching methods, shared in this article about my journey.

Being a graduate student helped me to gain a new perspective on the needs of children in our area, and graduating from Grand Canyon University has a special meaning to me. It proves that with determination and hard work you can achieve your goals, regardless of your nationality or background.

Agnieszka “Aga” Cook

M.E. in Educational Administration


I believe my commencement story is important because it’s happening with my husband, Anthony Gipson. We both graduated this week – he earned his Bachelor of Science in Sports Management.

GCU’s online programs have helped us to both go neck to school at our ages (42 and 40) and pursue careers that we were destined to achieve. We doubled up on class loads and worked harder than ever to be able to graduate at the same time.

Our two boys are so proud of what we’ve accomplished because this was done while relocating to Texas from California and working a full-time schedule (sometimes shifts of 12-13 hours). It represents to our children that anything is possible as long as you have God by your side and the ambition to withstand any adversity to get there. 

Tyronda Long

M.E. in Special Education


GCU Provost Dr. Hank Radda was passing out diplomas Friday night.

After working as a licensed social worker for the State of Nevada for 18 years, I needed to make a change to follow my dreams. My husband of 33 years was very supportive and helped me to connect to GCU to begin my path in the field of education.

I began school in 2017 while I continued to work for the state and, after one year, I was hired through an alternative licensure program to begin teaching in December 2018.

My husband had been terminally ill with multiple myeloma since 2005. He had a stem cell transplant, a kidney transplant, and three open heart surgeries and died in August after contracting an infection in the hospital.  

As I complete this journey, he remains in my heart even though he is no longer by my side. This program supported by ability to participate in classes from hospitals in Nevada, Arizona and California. I completed homework from home and various locations while we traveled and created cherished memories with our two children and two grandchildren. 

I have learned to make the most of my life, and I appreciate the support I have received during this adventure.

Rebecca Cortez

M.E. in Elementary Education


My GCU story started in June 2018 after a seven-year hiatus in my pursuit of a master’s degree. Because I had been out of school so long, I had to start over, but a representative of GCU, George, came to my school and literally sold me on the program and GCU.

The journey at GCU has been smooth and rewarding. My online professors have been top notch. I feel prepared and equipped to pursue my new career as a reading specialist. I am dedicating my diploma to my loving and supportive husband, William Roundtree III, my mother, Dorothy Terrell, for pushing me to return to school and to the memory of my late father, George Buchanan Sr., who would be peacock proud to see me receive my second degree. Thank you, GCU, for helping to make my parents proud one more time!

Genevra Buchanan Roundtree

M.A. in Reading


My grandmother always has encouraged me to strive for greatness. She worked tirelessly against incredible odds to build businesses and help provide a better life for our family, and she accomplished most of her goals despite significant social and political challenges.

Her drive led me to start Grind Inc., which provides opportunities for disengaged and vulnerable children in Albany, Ga., my hometown. Her direction and tutelage has been a constant inspiration for my entire family.

Recently, my grandmother suffered a stroke. She worked tirelessly during her rehab process to guarantee that she could be here with the rest of my family to witness me walk across the stage to receive my degree.

Jeremee JP Davis

M.E. in Secondary Education

Related content:

GCU Today: Slideshow: Fall Commencement, Friday evening ceremony

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GCU Today: My LopeLife: Tales of doctoral, nursing challenges

GCU Today: Slideshow: Fall Commencement, Friday afternoon ceremony

GCU Today: Slideshow: Fall Commencement, Friday morning ceremony

GCU Today: My LopeLife: Stories from Thursday evening session

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GCU Today: Jamaican graduate hopes degree will impact others

GCU Today: Kirk Cameron delivers powerful message to grads

GCU Today: My LopeLife: They had to be all business to succeed

GCU Today: Slideshow: Fall Commencement, Thursday afternoon ceremony

GCU Today: Slideshow: Fall Commencement, Thursday morning ceremony

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GCU Magazine

Bible Verse

Jesus taught his disciples, saying: "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the law and the prophets." (Matthew 7:12)

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