Baylor is a small world where everybody knows someone. But most people do not get to reunite with their elementary school teacher.
Evan Ditmore came to Baylor this fall as a graduate student and research assistant in the School of Education in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction in language arts. He knew he would be placed with a professor. He also knew that his former third grade teacher, Dr. Suzanne Nesmith, now held a position as associate professor in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction. Now Ditmore and Nesmith are reunited. They flow back and forth between reminiscing about their shared third-grade past (1997-98) and working together as graduate assistant and mentor, reconnecting at Baylor after following varied paths.
Ditmore decided to pursue a doctoral degree in curriculum and teaching and contacted Dr. Nesmith as a reference once he found out that she had relocated to Waco from Plainview, where he had been a student in her third-grade class. He earned BA and master of education degrees from Wayland Baptist University and then taught language arts for a few years before deciding to pursue more education. Ditmore found several options for a doctoral degree where he could explore opportunities for research.
“I wanted to do something more than just online,” he said. “And Baylor was looking like a really good option. When I found out Dr. Nesmith was here, I had to do it.” He applied to Baylor right away.
Nesmith, meanwhile, had left the elementary school they shared in Plainview and also graduated from Wayland Baptist University with an MEd. She then graduated from Texas Tech with a PhD in curriculum and instruction. Nesmith became associate dean at Wayland’s School of Education and was in line to become dean.
“That would’ve been the rest of my life right there — the last job in my career. I didn’t want that to be the end yet.” Nesmith said. “I’m the kind of person to take on new challenges. I wanted to explore a little more.”
Nesmith received a call from Dr. Sandi Cooper, a major professor for her while she was earning her PhD who had moved to become part of the Baylor School of Education faculty. Before long, Nesmith was also at Baylor, serving as faculty member in science education in Curriculum & Instruction.
Combining Nesmith’s expertise in sciences and Ditmore’s background in language arts, they quickly set up a team that includes themselves and Dr. Lakia Scott, whose focus is on literacy. “Right now we’re working on a new research project that will bridge science and literature and find a way to utilize literature in science curriculum,” Nesmith said.
Ditmore said he feels like he is making the difference he wanted to through this team-oriented approach to research. “I get to have an impact on the future of education and shaping how people will learn,” he said. “That’s the best part. I get to have a hand in that.”
Nesmith said that she is, above all, a teacher. “Anytime I get to have an experience with a student, as a teacher or advisor or listener, that’s the best part to me. I was a classroom teacher for 16 years, but I’ve been a teacher for 28 years.”
Looking over at Ditmore with a smile, she added, “With Evan, it’s fun to be able to remember those funny or silly times with someone who was there. And working with him now, I get to see the minor role I played in what he’s doing.”
Ditmore said, “It’s interesting that she was part of a formative time in my life and is now helping shape me as a professional. It’s the same sort of comfortable connection, but in a different world.”
—By Kayleigh Lovvorn
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