Former campus employee finds encouragement, road to dream teaching job

Release Date: February 6, 2009    

ALBUQUERQUE – The way Jennifer Toledo sees it, divine providence was at work in fulfilling her dream of earning a college education. Without God’s intervention and provision, she’s not sure she would have seen graduation.

Toledo was working as a teacher’s aide in the Cuba school district in northern New Mexico when Wayland Baptist University’s Albuquerque campus began offering courses there. Since she lived there and worked at the school, the arrangement was perfect. Coupled with the need to pick up college credits for her job, she made the decision to take the plunge and at least pursue her associate’s degree.

Several years later, she’s in her second year as a second-grade teacher at Colinas Del Norte Elementary School in the Rio Rancho school district, a suburb of Albuquerque. And while that first year was quite a learning experience, she knows she’s in the right place.

“The staff and administration were extremely kind and supportive of me during my first year teaching, and they continue to be. I continue to draw often from the lessons learned from my wonderful instructors at Wayland. I know now that it is one of the best education programs out there,” she said.

But getting to this point in her dream career took a journey of its own and lots of support from friends and family, including one that “adopted” her along the way. It was the fall of 2003 when Toledo took her first class at Wayland. She took one more the next few terms, taking it slow to have plenty of time for her family and work. Toledo was no stranger to college work, though, having attended out of high school before quitting to marry and start a family. Still, the prospect of the degree was daunting.

“I don’t know if I would have gotten my education if not for Wayland. I don’t know if I would have had the courage to go into one of those large secular universities,” she said. “I was older, and I think I would have felt out of place.”

But she didn’t. Instead, she found the Christian atmosphere and small classes made the transition easier. And the staff cheered her on, encouraging her to go for the full bachelor’s degree. She didn’t have to think twice about her major.

“Education was where I wanted to go,” she said. “I had homeschooled my kids for so long and (education) was always there in my heart. When I saw that Wayland had that program, I was excited to know I could continue with that.

“I’ve always loved learning and after homeschooling, it was part of my mindset. But there were key people who encouraged me that I could do it. I figured I’d take it as far as I could and let the Lord do the rest.”

With a few semesters under her belt, Toledo moved to Rio Rancho, a suburb of Albuquerque, and went to work for a bank. But she desperately needed a better job, and mentioned her need to Allena Jordan, an academic advisor at WBU. God made those dreams a reality as well.

“They had been praying for a person to come in, and they brought my name up to the campus director and then interviewed me,” Toledo recalls. “I knew I wanted to be there, and sure enough, they offered me the job as administrative assistant.”

Along the way, Toledo picked up the responsibilities of the campus’ bookstore as well, all while continuing to pursue her teaching degree. Before she knew it, she was ready to do her student teaching, a tricky maneuver with a full-time job she couldn’t afford to quit. The campus executive director allowed her to split her work schedule, and the school allowed her to extend the length of her teaching, making the arrangement possible.

Toledo graduated with her Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies degree in elementary education in June 2007, and is now in her second year of teaching. Someday she hopes to teach on the reservation, working with Native American children.

Though she credits God with turning her dreams into reality, Toledo said there are many who were key encouragers and supporters during her education journey. Her three grown children and parents top the list.

“My family has been so encouraging. They really stuck behind me,” she said. “My parents believed in me, and they had no doubt I could do it. They always encouraged us to pursue education, so I had a good example ahead of me.”

But she also believes the Wayland family to which she belongs made a big difference as well. And as she seeks a teaching job, she has a new appreciation for WBU and for the way the campus is able to help people change their lives and reach their dreams.

“The staff has not only been supportive, they have been good friends to me and taken on the role of family for me many times,” she said. “There’s lots of encouragement there.

“Working for the university made me realize that this is the way this university works. It’s not only in the business of educating minds, but also in nurturing the spirit and reaching out to students in ways that are not only educational. I saw Wayland operate in a way I’d never seen. I quickly became very loyal to the ideals of Wayland because I saw it being practiced in the classroom with the instructors.”