Special education honors major Amelia Greco hopes to pair passions for education and the environment

As a student at Skyline High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Amelia Greco participated in Peer Connections, an initiative through which students are paired with students receiving special education services. The experience ignited her interest in becoming a special education teacher. 

“I went to one of his classes with him every day,” she said. "It was something I really enjoyed.”

Greco said four family members earned degrees at Wayne State, and a cousin currently attends the university. However, it was not that legacy but the location that made the university attractive to her.

“Wayne State was the perfect place for me because it was far enough from home that I could do my own thing and close enough that I could go home when I wanted to,” she said. “In addition, I was drawn to the community, the chance to be part of a diverse student body and opportunities there for people from all walks of life.”

Greco said one of the aspects she enjoyed most about being a student in the College of Education was learning from and with faculty and classmates who had a broad diversity of knowledge and experience.

“There were people in my classes who were practicing teachers in the classroom, who had been substitute teaching for years, who were changing careers and who had never taught before,” she said. “Learning in classes with so many different types of people with many different stories and experiences was important to me.”

Greco said she was also grateful for the scholarships she received. They included a four-year scholarship from the Honors College as well as the Tina Abbott Scholarship, Rose Poskel Teacher’s Endowed Scholarship, Gena Ellen Ratner Endowed Memorial Scholarship and Smith Endowed Memorial Scholarship.

“Because of those awards, I was able to spend more time studying,” she said. “Although I worked all four years, I never had to work full time. I devoted those extra hours to doing homework and making sure I was taking care of myself, and that was very beneficial.”

While she enjoys teaching, Greco said she experienced some challenges during her student teaching placement. The district to which she was assigned required teachers to follow a pacing guide, a calendar outlining specific pages that should be covered each day to complete an entire textbook in a school year. 

“There was very little room for me to plan lessons to help my students with concepts they might have missed from previous grades and those they had difficulty understanding in the allotted time period,” she said. “I had to determine how to navigate within the constraints of a strictly enforced curriculum to make sure that my students received the support they needed. That was my biggest struggle — learning how to work within and around the systems in place while ensuring my students were okay.”

photo of Amelia Greco
Greco enjoys spending time outdoors

The experience made Greco question the impact of using pacing guides. It also provided the basis for her honors thesis, an interview-based study about the effects of curriculum pacing guides and how they influence teacher decision-making in the classroom. Greco said her perseverance when it comes to solving problems makes her “Warrior Strong.” 

“I am willing to look more deeply into issues I find problematic,” she said. “My professors have really encouraged me to examine the root causes of challenges. It is difficult to create solutions to problems without understanding the reasons why they exist.”

Greco said Jennifer Lewis, associate professor of mathematics education in the College of Education’s Division of Teacher Education, and Chris Nazelli, associate professor of teaching in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ Department of Mathematics, influenced her perception of herself. 

“Jenny really helped me through a lot, including that student teaching experience,” she said. “She helped me reframe my own thoughts about myself as a student and as a teacher, and it really helped me teach and support my students more effectively. Chris changed my view of math. I never liked math, and I never thought I was good at it. Then, I took his math methods class and got to really dive into it, and it was an amazing experience.” 

When Greco is not in the classroom, she is outdoors. She spent the last two summers working at Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. Located in Ontonagon, it is Michigan’s largest state park and one of the few remaining large wilderness areas in the Midwest. As a staff member, Greco has educated visitors about the park, helped guests plan camping trips, and maintained the park and its trails and cabins.

“Working outdoors has been a really big part of my life,” she said. “I loved my kids when I was student teaching but being engaged in our park system is also very important to me, so I am exploring ways to bring my passion for education and the environment together.”

Greco said she hopes to secure a seasonal job out west this summer and work for the National Park Service. She believes majoring in education will allow her to make a difference in any profession.

“One of my main takeaways from my education courses — especially my special education classes — was learning how to be an advocate,” she said. “Whether it’s for my students, communities, parks or the environment, that advocacy is something I will take with me everywhere. If I secure a position on the educational side of the park system, I can fully utilize my teaching skills while advocating for the environment to my students. That could be a cool way to bring my two passions together.”


Media contact:

Tracy Boyce

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